Support our mission
 

WüRZBURG, Germany — A U.S. Army Garrison Franconia soldier was acquitted Wednesday of charges that he violently shook a 9-week-old infant, causing her to stop breathing and to hemorrhage in her eyes and brain.

Pfc. Christopher Brown, 21, attached to Headquarters and Headquarters Company for the garrison, wept as the jury foreman read the not-guilty verdict, which came after two long days of testimony from medical experts, acquaintances and the mother of the baby.

Brown was engaged to the baby’s mother at the time of the incident, according to accounts in court. Brown and the baby’s mother did not get married.

On the morning of Jan. 8, 2005, Brown took the infant with him from the mother’s home for a quick trip back to his housing on Leighton Barracks to get a change of clothes, allowing the child’s mother to sleep in.

Soon after, Brown called a friend of the mother and frantically said that the child had turned blue and was not breathing.

“She was lifeless,” said the baby’s mother, describing what she confronted when she arrived at Brown’s barracks and saw him holding the unconscious infant.

The child was rushed to the Würzburg Army Medical Hospital and was revived after about 10 minutes, according to testimony.

A medical witness for the prosecution, Dr. Barbara Craig, testified that the child, now about 18 months old, has not developed along the lines of a normal child her age, but that it is difficult to know just how much the brain problems will affect her in the future.

“She’s making progress, but she’s not completely normal,” said Craig, who is executive director of the Armed Forces Center for Child Protection in Bethesda, Md.

While the prosecution painted Brown as someone who changed his statements and could not be believed as to what happened to the baby that day, the defense argued that Brown cared for his fiancee’s child like his own.

“He shook her very violently and rapidly, causing bleeding in both her eyes and brain,” prosecutor Capt. Brad Glendening told the jury during opening arguments.

This was not a normal, healthy baby to begin with, and other health issues accounted for what happened on Jan. 8, 2005, said Capt. Shay Stanford, one of Brown’s defense attorneys.

“Pfc. Brown saved her life,” Stanford said of Brown’s attempts to revive the child while en route to the hospital. “He cared about (her).”

Medical experts for the prosecution and defense concurred that the baby suffered hemorrhaging in the eyes and in one of the membrane layers that house the brain.

But opinions differed as to why the baby stopped breathing, with prosecution witnesses saying it was a case of shaken baby syndrome.

Defense experts said it could have been an infection of the brain, thrombosis or a form of hypoxia, among other possibilities.

Brown also was acquitted on a specification in the assault charge not related to shaking the baby.

Witnesses, including the baby’s mother, testified that the child had a bruise on her torso and under her eyes in the week before Jan. 8.

After claps and cheers of “hallelujah” from members of his unit once the verdict was read, and after hugging his wife and grandparents, Brown said he was glad that the ordeal was over.

“I praise God that the truth has been shown,” he said outside the courtroom.

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up