Most recently, Harris County was compelled to change the autopsy results by the same medical examiner in an 11-year old case after concluding there was no basis for a shaken-baby finding. Reported the Chron:
The original autopsy classified the baby's death as a homicide and was used by prosecutors as a key piece of evidence against Cynthia Cash, now 53, a former nurse convicted of fatal injury to a child after 4-month-old Abbey Clements died after being rushed to the hospital from Cash's home.
But the modified autopsy report made public in a new appeal calls the cause of death “undetermined” and found no evidence of “trauma” in the postmortem exam. Those changes came five years after local officials announced a review of problematic autopsies conducted by a former Harris County associate medical examiner, Dr. Patricia Moore. Moore, who declined requests for comment, left Harris County in 2002 but still works for Southeast Texas Forensic Center, a Conroe-based company that provides forensic work for six counties.
It is at least the fourth time Harris County officials have reclassified a child's autopsy that Moore originally labeled as a homicide. Two women have been cleared in other cases — including Brandy Briggs, who was jailed at 19 after rushing her baby to the hospital and who spent several years in a prison isolation cell before being freed in 2005. Dr. Luis Sanchez, head of the medical examiner's office, did not respond to Chronicle questions about Cash's case or whether he has finished an audit he promised to conduct after finding problems in the Briggs case.
It's particularly disturbing to learn that Moore continues to perform autopsies in Texas criminal cases, making one wonder what quality control mechanisms exist (or should be implemented) to eject incompetent or biased forensic workers from the field.
Over at The Agitator, Radley Balko commented on the case, noting that "In 2004, a statistical analysis showed Moore diagnosed shaken baby syndrome (already a controversial diagnosis) in infant deaths at a rate several times higher than the national average. Roger Koppl and I noted her case in recommending statistical analysis as one way of checking the integrity of state forensic specialists."
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