Med­i­cal tes­ti­mony dom­i­nates trial in tot’s death

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - FRONT PAGE - BILL SAWCHUK STAN­DARD STAFF

They were sim­ple an­swers from foren­sic pathol­o­gist Dr. John Fer­nan­des, but they went straight to the heart of how the Crown sees its case against Brian Matthews.

Matthews stands charged with man­slaugh­ter in the death of his grand­son, 13-month-old Kody Smart of Thorold.

Fer­nan­des spent the morn­ing telling the court about the au­topsy he per­formed on Kody and the in­juries he found.

Crown at­tor­ney Ch­eryl Gzit then asked if it was pos­si­ble for Kody to have suf­fered his lethal in­juries if he fell from a seated po­si­tion.

“No,” Fer­nan­des replied.

She then asked if it was pos­si­ble for Kody to have suf­fered lethal in­juries if he fell from a stand­ing po­si­tion.

“No,” Fer­nan­des replied. Fer­nan­des then said that in the ab­sence of a clear ac­count of what hap­pened to Kody, the only sci­en­tific ex­pla­na­tion for Kody’s mas­sive brain in­juries was a rapid ac­cel­er­a­tion and de­cel­er­a­tion of his head com­bined with some force trauma, which is con­sis­tent with shak­ing a child.

Fer­nan­des’ tes­ti­mony marked the end of the Crown’s case, which is be­ing heard by Judge Joseph Nadel with­out a jury in an On­tario Court of Jus­tice court­room in St. Catharines.

Kody was pro­nounced dead at McMaster Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal on July 26, 2015, af­ter doc­tors de­cided to re­move him from life­sup­port.

Matthews has main­tained all along that one of the fam­ily dogs — a well-mus­cled Labrador bull mas­tiff cross named Duke — jumped into Kody and caused what proved to be a fa­tal head in­jury.

Matthews was ar­rested and charged by Ni­a­gara Re­gional Po­lice in Novem­ber of 2015 fol­low­ing a lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Emer­gency crews were called to Matthews’ home on Thorold Town­line Road on July 25, 2015, in re­sponse to a 911 call for a child in med­i­cal dis­tress.

Paramedics took Kody to St. Catharines hos­pi­tal be­fore he was trans­ferred to McMaster Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Hamil­ton by air am­bu­lance.

The trial be­gan last Mon­day and is ex­pected to take about two weeks.

Matthews’ lawyer Peter Barr said the de­fence would be­gin its case today, al­though he wasn’t sure if he would call an ex­pert med­i­cal wit­ness he has lined up.

He told Nadel it was a de­ci­sion he would make overnight, af­ter re­view­ing the Crown’s case against his client.

Tues­day morn­ing, Fer­nan­des said Kody’s in­juries formed what pathol­o­gists re­ferred to as the “triad” of symp­toms of a baby that had been shaken — and pos­si­bly slammed into a hard sur­face.

The three symp­toms in­clude brain swelling, bleed­ing un­der the du­ral-mat­ter (mem­brane) of the brain and bleed­ing in the reti­nas.

Fer­nan­des didn’t use the term “shaken baby syn­drome.” It is ter­mi­nol­ogy that is considered out­dated.

Ex­perts now re­fer to it as abu­sive head trauma, which in­cludes in­juries to the skull, brain and spine.

Un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion from Kim­ber­ley Van­der­lee, one of the lawyers de­fend­ing Matthews, Fer­nan­des told the court he pre­pared his au­topsy re­port with­out know­ing that Matthews had told po­lice the dog had slammed into Kody while jump­ing the couch. Matthews said Kody had a seizure and be­came un­re­spon­sive af­ter ap­pear­ing all right at first.

Van­der­lee asked Fer­nan­des if an 80-pound dog leap­ing on a couch could “de­liver enough en­ergy” to cause the in­juries to the child’s brain.

“It is pos­si­ble,” Fer­nan­des said. Fer­nan­des said he found nu­mer­ous bruises on Kody’s body, but many were the re­sult of “med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion” as doc­tors and paramedics tried to save Kody’s life.

Three of the bruises couldn’t be ex­plained that way. They in­cluded a bruise on his cheek, bruis­ing near his spinal col­umn on his neck, and bruis­ing on the tips of his shoul­ders.

Fer­nan­des agreed with Van­der­lee that all of them could have been caused by a fall of fewer than three feet.

Smart

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