Shocking: How Faulty Science Lands Innocent People Behind Bars as Accused Child Murderers
Continued from previous page
There were no witnesses to the alleged attack, and Lopez had not confessed, so the prosecution's case relied heavily on medical testimony. Over five days, a stream of doctors and nurses who had treated Isis at the hospital told the jury she must have been brutalized.
Dr. Eric Levy, who treated Isis in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit, said the child's symptoms indicated she had been the victim of a violent attack. Looking at a photo of the baby's lower half, Levy pointed out bruise after bruise.
Michelle Gorday, a veteran nurse who specialized in sexual assault examinations, said it was one of the worst cases she'd witnessed in her 20-year career. "I've never ... ever seen that kind of trauma," she testified.
The defense called no expert witnesses. Basham, the psychologist, was surprised Lopez's attorneys never asked him to testify. "I would have said that there wasn't a basis to suggest that he would be someone likely to have harmed a child," Basham said.
Lopez chose to take the stand, insisting he had never hurt Isis and testifying about the strange ailments that shadowed the last days of her life.
With each day, more health issues cropped up, he said. Blood spots speckled Isis' left eye. Congestion made it hard for her to breathe, prompting the Lopezes to treat the baby with a nebulizer. When Lopez changed her soiled diapers, her fecal matter, he testified, was "black" and "really thick and sticky."
DeAnn Lopez corroborated her husband's testimony. When Isis' mother brought the baby to the Lopez home on Oct. 25, the child had bumps on her head and bruises on her chest, DeAnn told the jury. The infant was "lethargic" and reluctant to drink from her bottle, DeAnn said, consuming about six ounces of liquid over the span of several days, far less than a healthy 6-month-old would have.
Veronica Vas, Isis' mother, disputed the Lopezes' account, maintaining that Isis was only mildly ill before she died. "She had about six little bumps on the left side of her forehead, but those were already healing up," Vas testified. The baby's energy level was "quite normal."
Addressing the jury, Assistant District Attorney J. Patrick Murphy summed up the case by saying, "Common sense tells you who had to have done it. ... This child could not fight back. This child could not consent. This child could do nothing but lay there." The jury found Lopez guilty.
McClain, the medical examiner, testified in the sentencing phase of the trial, telling the jury she had ruled Isis' death a homicide and detailing what she discovered during the autopsy. The baby, she said, suffered a "laceration of the vagina area" and injuries to her brain.
"The brain is covered by a thick fibrous covering called the dura," the forensic pathologist testified. "There was a hemorrhage beneath this dura, on top of the brain." Such bleeding, explained the doctor, can occur when a baby's brain is buffeted by a powerful impact.
"In this case," McClain continued, "we know the head has struck something, because we've got bruising in that area."
Scrutinizing Isis' eye tissue under a microscope, McClain said, she had discovered more bleeding, which she interpreted as another indicator of violent head trauma. Seven other doctors in her office had reviewed the case and concurred with her findings, McClain added.
Lopez was sentenced to 60 years.
Stunned, he turned to his brother Eddie. "It's like we're at my funeral," he said, "but I'm still alive."