Nanny Was to Go on Trial for Baby's Death. Then, a Reversal

3 years after Rehma Sabir died, medical examiner changed her mind on homicide ruling
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 25, 2021 1:30 PM CST
Nanny Was to Go on Trial for Baby's Death. Then, a Reversal
Stock photo.   (Getty Images)

"If two people are left in an apartment in the morning, and at the end of the day, one of them is dead, there’s no way that there would not be a trial in that situation." Except that scenario Sameer Sabir described is the one he found himself in. He and his wife left their daughter Rehma on her first birthday to go to work. When they returned home, she was unconscious, then in a coma, then brain dead, with the initial cause of death being given as homicide by blunt force trauma—a case of shaken baby syndrome. But just before Aisling Brady McCarthy, the nanny who had spent that day with Rehma, was to go on trial some three years later, Boston medical examiner Dr. Katherine Lindstrom changed the cause of death to a brain bleed of unknown cause; McCarthy returned home to Ireland. In part two of its deep dive into Rehma's case, CNN looks at why Lindstrom changed her mind and the role defense experts who "testify against mainstream medical opinion in shaken baby cases" had in this case and others.

Lindstrom attributed her about-face to having access to new materials; the defense had supplied her with the opinions of nine medical experts who didn't cite trauma as the cause but suggested alternatives including "stroke, a short fall from a bed, metabolic disorders, bleeding disorders," and more. Three experts suggested she died of acute necrotizing encephalopathy, a disease recorded in just 110 people, and one in which there are symptoms days in advance: vomiting, diarrhea, seizures. But days before Rehma's death, she was with relatives celebrating her birthday, with nothing amiss. As CNN explains, "child abuse specialists say defense experts often 'cherry pick' a symptom and claim it’s a sign of a rare disease ... or they suggest causes of death that do not match all the facts about a baby’s injuries—just as occurred in the Rehma Sabir case." (Read part two for more, including how the "battle of the experts" came to be in 1997, and how medical organizations are speaking out over the "growing success of [shaken baby syndrome] denialism." Or catch up on part one.)

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