Commonwealth v. EppsAnnotate this Case
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury. The prosecution argued that Defendant violently shook a toddler in his care based on medical testimony that the child was diagnosed with three symptoms associated with shaken baby syndrome. At trial, Defendant contended that the child had fallen down the stairs in her home and later fallen off a kitchen stool. Defendant filed a postconviction motion for a new trial, arguing (1) his counsel was ineffective for failing to retain a medical expert to acknowledge the possibility that the child’s injuries could have been caused by an accidental short-distance fall, and (2) new scientific advances on shaken baby syndrome and short falls warranted a new trial. The motion judge denied the motion, and the Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Defendant was deprived of a defense due to counsel’s failure to find an appropriate expert to testify that the child’s injuries might have been caused by her accidental falls, thereby creating a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. Remanded for a new trial.