The retrial of convicted father Adrian Thomas produced a not guilty verdict today, a decision reached by jurors who did not learn about the 9-hour interrogation examined in the award-winning 2012 film Scenes of a Crime or hear testimony from the detectives who conducted it. Thomas’s initial conviction in 2010 for the presumed shaking death of his 4-month-old son was overturned in February, when an appeals court determined that the interrogators’ heavy-handed tactics made the resulting confession inadmissible.
At both trials, defense experts argued that Matthew had died of sepsis, a full-body infection that leads to rapid collapse through tissue failure. The sepsis diagnosis was confirmed by blood tests ordered by forensic pathologist Jan Leestma, hired by the defense team. The state pathologist had not mentioned the sepsis in his autopsy report, although he did not deny it after Leestma brought it to his attention.
Matthew had no bruising, no red marks, and no fractures. His first blood test when he was rushed the hospital had came back positive for streptococcus pneumoniae. He had also arrived at the hospital with a temperature of 97.2 F, which dropped 3 degrees over the next half hour. His mother had reported a fever of 100.4 F the previous day, a figure that was dismissed as “not high” by prosecution expert Dr. Carole Jenny, who insisted that the sepsis infection was secondary to inflicted head trauma.
Coverage by reporter Bob Gardner at the Times Union offered this quote from the prosecution after the verdict:
“After the Court of Appeals threw out the his statements of guilt, we did the best we could with what we had left,” said Assistant District Attorney Christa Book. “I’m sorry that I could not bring Matthew justice.”
For a summary of the interrogation and a review of the film, please see this blog posting.
For the opinion vacating Thomas’s initial conviction, follow this link.