The defense attorney for a Hiawatha woman on trial for first-degree murder in the death of 17-month-old Kamryn Schlitter blasted two medical experts during cross examinations Wednesday who changed their testimony from previous trials.
Both doctors with the University of Hospitals and Clinics changed the timing of Kamryn’s rotational head injury that caused her death, which could be crucial to Johnston’s client, Amy Parmer, because those different timings could support the state’s case that Parmer was in control of Kamryn when the fatal injury occurred.
One doctor said her opinion evolved after reviewing the completed autopsy report and the other doctor said his findings had also changed after doing more research on the kind of brain injury Kamryn suffered.
Parmer, 29, of Hiawatha, is charged with first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death. She is accused of inflicting the physical abuse of Kamryn, along with her ex-boyfriend Zyriah Schlitter, who was also Kamryn’s father. Kamryn died from blunt force head injuries March 28, 2010.
Schlitter, 25, of Cedar Rapids, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment resulting in death last December and is serving 50 years in prison.
The prosecution will wrap up its case Thursday morning and the defense will likely start in the afternoon. The trial started Aug. 19. Follow Gazette Reporter Trish Mehaffey’s continuing live coverage from the courtroom.
Dr. Resmiye Oral, the director of the Child Protection Program at UI, admitted her direct testimony Tuesday that Kamryn’s injury occurred within six hours of the 911 call made by Parmer March 21, 2010 was an arbitrary number. She was being cautious. She thinks the rotational head injury occurred immediately within the call based on the medical evidence.
But Johnston challenged her many times, saying in a letter or report April 5, 2010 Oral said the recent of two head injuries occurred within 24 to 72 hours.
Oral said he was correct but the autopsy and investigation wasn’t completed at that point. The autopsy clarified some things for her. In that letter, she was basing it on information she had at the time and at the time she thought there was only one injury but the autopsy revealed two distinct injuries in different time frames.
“The autopsy doesn’t change the symptoms (Kamryn displayed)?” Johnston said.
Oral said she didn’t base her diagnosis on just the symptoms alone. The only reason she chose six hours was because brain swelling takes time, usually one to 2 hours, to show up on CT.
“I just wanted to be more cautious,” Oral said.
Johnston also challenged Oral with her testimony from a related juvenile court proceeding in May 2010, saying she had seen the autopsy then and didn’t change her opinion to within six hours or less.
Oral said she didn’t think she had reviewed it at the time. Oral insisted the pathology on the autopsy clarified her opinion and it did evolve over time with more information.
Dr. Gary Baumbach, a pathologist with UI, testified Kamryn had two separate bleeding events or injuries. There was evidence of an older bleed that could have been weeks to months old and a more recent one that occurred within 12-24 hours of her brain surgery March 21, 2010.
In a sample he viewed from the sub dural hematoma, the red blood cells hadn’t broken down, which indicates it was an “acute event” or recent one, Baumbach said. If it was longer than 24 hours, there would be fibroblast cells in the hematoma, that starts healing the clot, but those were missing.
First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks asked if the recent injury could have occurred at noon March 21, 2010.
Baumbach said it was possible. He also said he couldn’t rule out that the injury might have happened later than noon that day.
Johnston on cross said Baumbach testified at the Zyriah Schlitter trial that the hematoma injury occurred 48 to 72 hours at a minimum.
Baumbach admitted he did.
Johnston said in his deposition Baumbach said there was no way to tell if there were two bleeding events but now he’s saying there are two?
Baumbach said he wasn’t intentionally changing his testimony. The reason his opinion changed is because he did some research on time windows of specific brain hemorrhages and the acute stage is within 12 to 24 hours.
Maybanks asked Baumbach if he was asked to go back and do more research to change his opinion for court today.
“No,” Baumbach said.