"OVERTURNING HER CONVICTION, LORD JUSTICE TOULSON SAID IT WAS THE COURT’S VIEW THAT IF THE FRESH MEDICAL EVIDENCE HAD BEEN GIVEN AT HER TRIAL IT MIGHT REASONABLY HAVE AFFECTED THE JURY’S DECISION TO CONVICT. HE SAID THAT MS HOLDSWORTH’S CONVICTION “MUST BE JUDGED UNSAFE”.
“CONCLUSIONS OF MEDICAL EXPERTS ON THE CAUSE OF AN INJURY OR DEATH NECESSARILY INVOLVE A PROCESS OF DEDUCTION, THAT IS INFERRING CONCLUSIONS FROM GIVEN FACTS BASED ON OTHER KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE. BUT PARTICULAR CAUTION IS NEEDED WHERE THE SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE PROCESS OR PROCESSES INVOLVED IS, OR MAY BE, INCOMPLETE.”
HE ADDED: “AS KNOWLEDGE INCREASES, TODAY’S ORTHODOXY MAY BECOME TOMORROW’S OUTDATED LEARNING. SPECIAL CAUTION IS ALSO NEEDED WHERE EXPERT OPINION EVIDENCE IS NOT JUST RELIED UPON AS ADDITIONAL MATERIAL TO SUPPORT A PROSECUTION BUT IS FUNDAMENTAL TO IT.”"
FRANCES GIBBS: THE TIMES;
Suzanne Holdsworth' retrial is to be held tomorrow.
The Holdsworth case was the subject of previous posts on this Blog;
BBC News reporter John Sweeney provides an excellent background to the case ina story headed "Doubt cast on baby death verdict" which was published on December 6, 2007.
(Our readers will readily identify parallels with Dr. Charles Smith's propensity to turn tragic but innocent deaths of children into intentional killings;)
Sweeney's story bears the sub-heqadings "Kyle Fisher was due to have an operation on his eye socket" and "Pathologist's view."
"Fresh evidence casting doubt on the conviction of a woman for the murder of a boy she was babysitting, has been uncovered by BBC Newsnight," Sweeney's story begins;
"Suzanne Holdsworth, from Hartlepool, is serving life after a court was told she smashed Kyle Fisher against a banister with as much force as a 60mph crash," it continues;
"The two-year-old died in hospital with a massively swollen brain but only some bruising on the outside of his head.
A leading neuro-pathologist says it is "unlikely" an impact caused his death.
Holdsworth, 37, who worked at the check-out at Asda supermarket in Hartlepool, has always said she did not commit the crime.
Kyle had bruises, he had no scalp swelling, he had no skull fractures, so I think that is extremely unlikely
Dr Waney Squier
Her partner, Lee Spencer, and their two daughters, Lesley, 19 and Jamie-Leigh, 13, have never believed that she killed the little boy they all doted on.
The jury at Holdsworth's trial at Teesside Crown Court was told that the death took place after Kyle's mother, Clare Fisher, dropped her son off at her neighbour's in Millpool Close in July 2004 when she went clubbing.
According to the 60mph impact version of events, Kyle was left brain dead but the banister remained intact and unmarked by hair, tissue and blood.
But one of the country's most eminent neuro-pathologists, Dr Waney Squier, has dismissed the scenario as "meaningless, emotive words that have absolutely no scientific validity".
Suzanne Holdsworth was sentenced in April, 2005
She said: "A 60mph impact of a baby's head on a banister would cause massive damage to the head, massive skull fracturing.
"Kyle had bruises, he had no scalp swelling, he had no skull fractures, so I think that is extremely unlikely.'"
Kyle's father, Jon Taylor, who is separated from his mother, told the BBC: "It just happened to be that Suzanne was babysitting him.
"I could have been babysitting him, so that would mean I'd have probably ended up in jail."
Kyle's eye is at the heart of a case which may prove to be yet another grave miscarriage of justice.
Surgeons Professor Brian Avery and Sid Marks both saw Kyle in May, 2004, and planned to operate on his face.
The court heard that Kyle suffered an eye injury in 2003 after he fell from a buggy while he was being looked after by his mother.
Dr Squier told the BBC that Kyle's brain had two separate abnormalities, a congenital brain condition that can cause fits and the eye socket injury.
She said: "The brain had started to push down through that fracture into the eye socket and displacing the eye. The brain was scarred.
"So Kyle in fact had two abnormalities in his brain that would predispose him to having seizures. And seizures can kill."
I had potentially useful information and I was surprised that the police did not contact me
Professor Brian Avery
The investigation into Kyle's death was led by Det Supt Tony Hutchinson of Cleveland police, an officer with 50 murder inquiries under his belt.
Det Supt Hutchinson said after the trial that Holdsworth "very calmly applied her mind as to how she would explain the injury to the authorities".
In Holdsworth's 999 call, she told the operator Kyle was "not breathing... his eyes are rolling and everything..."
The operator asked if Kyle had had a fit. Holdsworth said he had.
The operator then asked Holdsworth if Kyle had any pre-existing injury.
She replied: "He's got a hole in his head, a hole in his eye and they're going to have take his skin off to get to it. You know, his face."
The police did not take written statements from either of the two surgeons who saw Kyle in 2004.
Prof Avery, who is a dean of the Royal College of Surgeons, told the BBC: "I had potentially useful information and I was surprised that the police did not contact me."
Newsnight put a number of questions to Det Supt Hutchinson but he declined to comment. Asked how she was going to get through her third Christmas inside, Holdsworth said: "I go on the phone, pretend I'm fine because my babies and my partner are having Christmas. I go back to my room and I cry and I cry and I cry."
Since making that call, Suzanne Holdsworth has been disciplined by the prison authorities for talking to the BBC and her ability to talk to her family restricted."
Fortunately Ms. Holdsworth's murder convictionwas quashed and a new trial - the one scheduled to begin on December 1, 2008 - was ordered on May 1, 2008:
Frances Gibbs, The Times Legal Editor, reported the hard-hitting Court of Appeal's decision in her story in "The Times" published on May 2, 2008, under the heading "Babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth has murder conviction quashed," and the sub-heading, "Suzanne Holdsworth's conviction for murder was successfully challenged today - she will now face a retrial."
"A babysitter sentenced to life for the murder of her neighbour’s two-year-old son was released from prison yesterday after the Court of Appeal declared her conviction unsafe and ordered a retrial," Gibb's story begins;
"Suzanne Holdsworth, 37, a mother of two who has spent three years behind bars, was driven away from Low Newton prison in Co Durham with a blanket over her head," it continues;
"Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Aikens and Judge Michael Baker, QC, granted her conditional bail after ordering a new trial over the death of her neighbour’s son, Kyle Fisher.
At her trial at Teesside Crown Court, Ms Holdsworth was accused of repeatedly banging Kyle’s head against a wooden banister. She was said to have “snapped” while minding Kyle at her home in Hartlepool, while the child’s 19-year-old single mother was having a night out. She was jailed for life and told that she must serve at least ten years before she could apply for parole.
The prosecution case was that the boy died from a fatal brain swelling, or oedema, caused by a blow or blows of significant force. Jurors were told that the impact on his head was similar to being thrown from a car at 60mph.
Kyle was taken to hospital after the injury, in August 2004, and died two days later.
During her appeal, which was opposed by the Crown, Ms Holdsworth’s lawyer, Henry Blaxland, told the judges that the doctors who gave evidence at trial “got it wrong” and “collectively failed to diagnose” that the child had a “highly unusual brain”, with abnormalities that predisposed him to epilepsy.
Fresh evidence established that there was a reasonable possibility that the child suffered a prolonged epileptic seizure, he argued.
The opinion of experts called on behalf of Ms Holdsworth was that Kyle’s condition, including an injury to the orbit of the right eye suffered in an accident a year before his death, predisposed him to epilepsy.
Overturning her conviction, Lord Justice Toulson said it was the court’s view that if the fresh medical evidence had been given at her trial it might reasonably have affected the jury’s decision to convict. He said that Ms Holdsworth’s conviction “must be judged unsafe”.
“Conclusions of medical experts on the cause of an injury or death necessarily involve a process of deduction, that is inferring conclusions from given facts based on other knowledge and experience. But particular caution is needed where the scientific knowledge of the process or processes involved is, or may be, incomplete.”
He added: “As knowledge increases, today’s orthodoxy may become tomorrow’s outdated learning. Special caution is also needed where expert opinion evidence is not just relied upon as additional material to support a prosecution but is fundamental to it.”
After the hearing, Ms Holdsworth’s partner of 19 years, Lee Spencer, a lorry driver, said: “She is a wonderful person and she is a wonderful mother. Children come first in her life. To say she put a child’s head into the banisters at 60mph is absolutely ridiculous.”
Ms Holdsworth’s solicitor, Campbell Malone, said: “She’s obviously very relieved at the outcome and understands it is the necessary first stage in the process of clearing her name.”
Kyle’s family said in a statement that was issued through Cleveland Police: “All we have ever wanted was to know the truth about what happened to Kyle. Since his death our lives have focused around the case. Not one of us has been able to move on. Today’s decision has brought all the heartache back. However, we will fully co-operate in the preparation for the retrial.” "
This Blog will report developments;
CSI DDS | Forensic Science Testimony. CSI bad science issues and their contribution to wrongful convictions.
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