Mother testifies that baby was dropped
November 3, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Tahirah Boston’s mother said she was unconcerned about the sudden change in her 2-month old baby’s behavior in the weeks leading up to the child’s death.
Lance Cpl. Eltrena Johnson, in the final day of testimony Friday at the murder trial of her boyfriend, Lance Cpl. James J. Boston, said the couple decided not to take the child to a doctor after Boston tripped and dropped the baby on the floor when picking her up from her crib.
And they did nothing in the following weeks, even though the child seemed to sleep around the clock in their Ishikawa apartment except when awakened to be fed or changed, and frequently spit up milk through her nose, Johnson said.
The 20-year-old Marine’s testimony supported the defense’s claim that Tahirah had an old injury to her brain that went unnoticed and eventually led to her ceasing to breathe on Jan. 28.
That was the day Boston, 22, who was watching the baby alone, said he found Tahirah lying on her stomach and not breathing. She was resuscitated and rushed to a Japanese hospital, where she was placed on life support.
Japanese doctors and U.S. Naval Hospital medical personnel on Camp Lester noted the baby was suffering from a subdural hematoma — bleeding inside her skull — and also had retinal bleeding and fractured ribs, all signs indicating she may have been abused.
Tahirah eventually was flown while in a coma to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, where she died on Feb. 10. An autopsy listed the cause of death as homicide, caused by recent non-accidental trauma.
Prosecution witnesses have testified since the court-martial began Monday that the baby’s injuries were recent and were classic signs of shaken baby syndrome.
Doctors testifying for the defense have said the baby’s death was caused by an old subdural hematoma, possibly even sustained at birth and never healed and started bleeding again on Jan. 28.
Throughout the trial, the expert medical witnesses for both sides sat in the spectator section of the courtroom, taking notes and passing them to the attorneys.
During recesses they huddled with the lawyers in the hallway and nearby offices, giving advice on how to attack or defend the diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome.
In contrast, Boston, of the 7th Communications Battalion on Camp Hansen, sat quietly at the defense table, displaying no emotion, even as the witnesses described in detail the injuries that caused his daughter’s death.
Both sides wrapped up testimony Friday, and Boston did not take the stand in his behalf. The court will reconvene Monday for final arguments.
Boston has been confined to the brig on Camp Hansen.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.