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Medical examiner needs more time to review findings in 1-year-old’s death

Aisling Brady McCarthy (right) left court proceedings at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn on Thursday. Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

WOBURN — A lawyer for the state medical examiner’s office said Thursday that a review of medical evidence in the 2013 death of a 1-year-old Cambridge girl could take another month, and that the chief medical examiner also plans to reexamine the shaken-baby case.

In a brief hearing in Middlesex Superior Court, Jacqueline Faherty, general counsel for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said the lengthy review of how Rehma Sabir died was still two to four weeks from completion.

The medical examiner’s office began a full review of the case in April after lawyers for Aisling Brady McCarthy, the nanny who is accused of fatally assaulting the child, submitted reports from a range of specialists challenging the finding that Rehma died from blunt force head injuries, and that her death was a homicide. The unusual review has delayed McCarthy’s murder trial, which is now scheduled for October.


“There’s been no final conclusion,’’ Faherty said. The medical examiner’s office requested some additional evidence for its review, but did not specify what kind.

Prosecutors allege that the child was in McCarthy’s exclusive care when the girl suffered massive brain injuries consisted with violent shaking, including extensive bleeding in her brain and the backs of her eyes.

Specialists said she was subjected to violent force and that the injuries could not have been inflicted before that day.

McCarthy’s lawyers have maintained her innocence, citing opinions from other specialists that the child sustained bone and compression fractures several weeks before her death, when she was traveling abroad with her family without McCarthy.

They also say the child was sick much of her life and suffered from a bleeding disorder and gastrointestinal problems.

In May, McCarthy was released on bail and placed under home confinement with GPS monitoring while the medical examiner’s office conducted its review.


The medical examiner’s decision to reconsider the case came amid doubts about the underlying science in abusive head trauma diagnoses, and followed a revised ruling last year in the death of a 6-month-old boy in Malden.

In that case, the medical examiner’s office initially ruled that the infant died from shaking injuries to the head, but after receiving more information about the family’s medical history concluded that the manner of death could not be determined.

A number of outside medical specialists concluded that the infant had died of natural causes.

After the change, Middlesex prosecutors dropped murder charges against the child’s father. Under the law, the medical examiner must identify the cause of death as a homicide for a murder prosecution to occur.

Outside the courthouse Thursday, McCarthy’s lawyer, Melinda Thompson, credited the medical examiner for reconsidering its initial decision, and said she hoped the length of time involved meant that doubts had been raised.

McCarthy left the courthouse without speaking to the media. The next hearing is scheduled for late August.

Peter Schworm can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globepete.