Jurors In Shaken Baby Case Will Decide Which Autopsy Interpretation They Believe

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A 44-year-old Burlington woman facing murder charges in the death of an infant girl she was babysitting awaits a verdict hinging on competing interpretations of an autopsy report.

Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney Katharine Folger told jurors that a medical examiner initially determined that 6-month-old Ridhima Dhekane died in 2014 from injuries consistent with being shaken.

Folger recounted how Ridhima was rushed to the hospital on March 27, 2014, after she stopped breathing at the home of her babysitter, Pallavi Macharla. Ridhima died three days later.

Prosecutors argued that Macharla, who trained as a doctor in her native India, shook the baby out of frustration, but Macharla told investigators that Ridhima choked after vomiting. Macharla later admitted that she lied to police about being with the baby the entire day; she had left the baby with a neighbor for about 25 minutes.

"The defendant wasn't thinking about Ridhima," Folger said. "She was indifferent to Ridhima's suffering. She was thinking about herself."

Months after the initial determination, the same medical examiner issued a new conclusion that the cause of death was unknown and the injuries could have occurred during life-saving measures.

Macharla's defense attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., told jurors that the new determination showed that his client was not responsible for the baby's death.

At trial, he presented experts who said Macharla was not physically capable of causing the injuries and pointed out that the government never refuted his expert's claims.

"An adult cannot vigorously shake a child with enough force to cause a subdural hemotoma," he said to jurors. "You just can't do it."

Jurors could find Macharla guilty of first-, second- or third-degree murder, or of a lesser charge of manslaughter. She faces up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

This segment aired on May 10, 2019.

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Jerome Campbell Reporter
Jerome Campbell was a WBUR Poverty and Justice Fellow whose reporting was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.



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