Defense attorneys for a North Laurel day care provider accused of killing one of her young charges failed yesterday in their attempts to get the autopsy report -- and testimony by the medical examiner about the fatal brain injury -- excluded from next week's trial.
Howard County Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. denied a request by lawyers for Kathleen A. Butcher to rule the report and testimony inadmissible. The lawyers, Joel Abramson and Ralph Lotkin, had argued that 15-month-old Alexa Shearer's organs were harvested for transplant before the autopsy was performed and made the examination unreliable.
Also, they argued, their experts could not independently analyze the brain tissue because no micro-slides or photographs of the brain were preserved from the autopsy.
But prosecutor Danielle Duclaux noted that the defense's expert was able to come up with the same cause of Alexa's death -- blunt force trauma from impact, and possible shaking -- as the medical examiner did.
Also, Duclaux and prosecutor Kim Oldham said that some of the arguments have more to do with how heavily the jury should rely on certain testimony than whether it should be admitted.
Butcher, 37, is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, child abuse and assault in Alexa's death.
Yesterday's arguments were a precursor to the Howard County trial that is expected to last two weeks. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday.
The trial is likely to rely largely on differing opinions by experts from both sides about the timing and severity of Alexa's injuries, discovered when paramedics were called to Butcher's home just before 1 p.m. Nov. 16, 1999.
Butcher's attorneys have argued -- successfully -- for access to the medical records of Alexa's parents and older sister, saying they sought to find "whether the parents have been abusive to one another" or to the sister, according to court documents.
Charging documents say paramedics called to Butcher's home in the 9400 block of Sewall Ave. found Butcher, who also was caring for seven other young children that day, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Alexa.
The child was flown to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, but she never regained consciousness and was unable to breathe without assistance, according to the charging documents. She was pronounced brain-dead two days later.
During the autopsy, the medical examiner noted a large bruise on the right side of Alexa's head, as well as injuries to her spine, ribs and eyes. The injuries were so severe that symptoms of distress would have appeared immediately, according to the charging documents.
The medical examiner also said an adult would have to be responsible for such serious injuries. Butcher told police that no other adults were in the house all day and that the oldest child in her care was 5, charging documents state.
Butcher told police that Alexa had been fine all day, eating normally during two meals and playing with other children, the documents show.