What Can Forensic Evidence Prove 17 Years Later? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

12/10/02

What Can Forensic Evidence Prove 17 Years Later?

On the surface, just the name Shaken-Baby Syndrome carries a heavy tone of guilt, but as jurors learned that weighing the physical evidence isn't as cut and dry as it might seem. 

On Tuesday at the Hockley County courthouse it was a day of testimony from the grave and dead men do tell tales. Forensic Anthropologist, Dr. Robert Paine, has helped authorities solve crimes years after they've occured, often with nothing more than skeletal remains. "We're here to speak for the dead, to tell their story." says Paine. 

Since 1985, Matthew Sharp's story has remained confined to the children's section of the cemetery, but 17 years later authorities thought that Matthew had more to say about how he died. Earlier this year his body was exhumed and re-examined, but what could medical examiners possibly find after almost 20 years in the grave?  

Both the first and second autopsy revealed blunt-force trauma, but what exactly does that mean?  According to Dr. Paine, "In terms of Forensic Anthropology, it usually means a crushing blow to the bone, causing a depressed fracture, and that depressed fracture has a particular pattern to it, it might have radiating fractures that come out of it, and it's usually pretty obvious."  But in the case of Matthew Sharp, evidence of skeletal trauma is absent.

Instead, medical examiners talk about soft tissue damage, and trauma that caused severe bruising on the head. Injuries that are consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome, but perhaps not severe enough to eliminate reasonable doubt from the minds of jurors.

On Wednesday, Robert Sharp is expected to tell his version of the events that led to the death of his child, and given the nature of Shaken-Baby Syndrome, legal experts say that Robert Sharp's testimony will be closely watched by jurors as they tilt on the cusp of innocence or guilt 

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