The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office today dismissed a murder charge that had been lodged against an Irish nanny for allegedly killing a Cambridge baby in her care. The Boston Globe published an excellent article outlining the history of the case.
Aisling Brady McCarthy was indicted for murder after one-year-old Rehma Sabir died in January of 2013. An autopsy revealed that the child had sustained head injuries that caused significant bleeding behind her eye and in her brain. Dr. Alice Newton concluded that the injuries had occurred shortly before the child’s death and testified that they were consistent with being violently shaken. But McCarthy’s team of excellent attorneys contended that the child’s cause of death was far from certain. They produced evidence that the child had suffered from serious medical conditions before her death and she had broken multiple bones during a time period when McCarthy had no contact with her.
After receiving the documents provided by McCarthy’s medical experts, the state medical examiner’s office agreed to review the case to confirm that its initial findings were correct. A different medical examiner determined that the baby may have had a medical disorder that had not been diagnosed prior to her death. The medical examiner was unable to conclude that the child’s injuries could only have been caused by an assault and therefore could not rule that the baby was a victim of homicide. The medical examiner said the injuries could have resulted from an accident or been the result of a disease.
After the medical examiner changed the baby’s cause of death, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case. According to the Globe, McCarthy’s attorney characterized the district attorney’s handing of the case as “a complete disgrace” and said there had been a rush to judgment. McCarthy was held in jail for more than two years while this case was pending. Following the disclosure that the medical examiner’s office was reviewing its findings, McCarthy was released on house arrest. Saying that her time in jail was a “complete nightmare” that ruined her life, McCarthy’s attorney said she would not rule out a wrongful prosecution lawsuit against law enforcement authorities.
McCarthy was expected to immediately be taken into custody by federal immigration authorities. McCarthy had been living illegally in the United States for years before her arrest. She will likely be deported back to Ireland shortly.
This tragic case illustrates the enormous power law enforcement has over individuals who are charged with crimes. For more than two years, an innocent woman had her freedom taken away by the government based on a shoddy and incorrect report issued by the medical examiner’s office. This is the second high-profile murder case that has been recently dismissed by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office as a result of the medical examiner’s office changing the cause of death for a deceased infant. A Malden man had his murder charge dropped when the medical examiner’s office changed its conclusion that his six-month-old son had been shaken to death. In that case, like in this case, the medical examiner’s office ultimately concluded that the baby’s cause of death could not be determined. The field of shaken baby syndrome has come under increased scrutiny recently, as some attorneys and medical experts have suggested that it is based on junk science.
Suing government agencies such as a district attorney’s office or a medical examiner’s officer is difficult because public officials ordinarily have immunity for the actions they take in their official capacities. In this case, somebody should be held accountable. It is intolerable to think that our government can imprison an innocent person for years without repercussions.