Trial begins in ‘shaken baby’ murder

Defense attorneys say injuries don't match and father did not shake his son

Defense attorneys for a man accused of shaking his baby to death told a jury yesterday that his infant son’s injuries do not match those from any typical “shaken baby” death.

Attorneys for Jamal Rashad Thomas, 21, said Tuesday that the evidence will show a lack of several specific injuries common to “shaken baby” deaths and the location of the infant’s actual injuries does not correlate with a shaken baby diagnosis.

Zaiyre Thomas had been born two months premature and had breathing problems among other medical issues, and EMTs who first treated the infant Feb. 3, 2012 thought he had suffered a seizure, said defense attorney Jason Sheffield.

Assistant District Attorney Warren Sellers countered that the evidence will show that Thomas had trouble getting Zaiyre to stop crying, and that “he said he shook the infant too hard.”

Sheffield countered that the father was under duress when he spoke with the sheriff’s department investigator, but Jamal Thomas never admitted to shaking the child. Sheffield said that Thomas instead told the detective that he “danced” with the child, bouncing Zaiyre up and down while supporting the infant’s neck.

The autopsy found no abnormality that would have led to the brain bleed that ultimately caused Zaire’s death, Sellers said. There was no evidence of an accident that could have caused the injury, and the medical examiner concluded that Zaiyre died as the result of a homicide, Sellers added.

Sheffield explained that the injuries likely were caused by a blood clot, though the CT scan taken by hospital staff isn’t as accurate and detailed as an MRI would have been. A blood clot would have dissolved in the number of days that passed before Zaiyre passed away and the subsequent autopsy occurred, Sheffield explained.

Further complicating matters is the fact that a problem with the air ambulance delayed Zaiyre from being taken from Southern Regional Medical Center to Egleston Children’s Hospital for more than two hours, Sheffield explained.

Defense attorneys said that Jamal Thomas was living with his parents, who were helping him take care of Zaiyre most of the time, as Zaiyre's mom lived in Clayton County and was going to school while waitressing at night.

Jamal was caring for Zaiyre on “the night shift” when the child developed breathing trouble and went limp, and he woke up his mother, who immediately called 911. Sheffield noted that Zaiyre went into cardiac arrest while he was being treated by Fayette County paramedics on the way to the hospital, but the paramedics were able to revive him.

Testimony in the case began this morning.

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