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Father acquitted of shaking infant daughter

July 03, 2014 - 1:55 PM

KAMLOOPS – A Kamloops father who was accused of shaking his baby and causing traumatic brain injury was acquitted in Kamloops Supreme Court Thursday morning.

Michael Beakley, born in 1978, phoned his mother outside of court to tell her Justice Hope Hyslop found him not guilty because the baby’s injuries could have occurred in a different period of time under someone else’s care. Hyslop also agreed with Beakley, who stated the baby’s mother previously slapped the baby.

Beakley was accused of shaking the baby when he was looking after her while the mother was at work.

After Hyslop read her decision and left the courtroom, Cassandra Gunn – Beakley’s ex-partner and mother of the baby wept, while one of her supporters told Beakley he would “burn in hell.”

During the trial, Gunn, born in 1980, told the court she came home from work to an unresponsive baby around 10:00 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. She said the baby’s eyes rolled to the side of her head, she was barely breathing and her skin was grey in colour.

“The baby was like a ragdoll,” Hyslop said.

Gunn said Beakley told her he noticed the baby's breathing was not consistent and said he wondered if her injuries occurred because he wrapped her too tightly in a blanket to try and calm her crying. He said he noticed the baby’s breathing stopped, but started again once he unwrapped her.

Gunn called paramedics who rushed the child named Hunter to Royal Inland Hospital for an emergency CT scan, which determined the baby’s brain was hemorrhaging. From there, the baby was flown to Vancouver Children’s hospital for emergency brain surgery.

“During the operation, (the baby) lost her own blood volume,” Hyslop said.

The Vancouver Children’s hospital doctor, Margaret Colbourne, investigated the baby's injuries and determined they were consistent with shaken-baby syndrome. She specifically noted the hemmoraging in the baby’s eyes as a key identifier of the condition. Colbourne also proved the infant's condition was not relative to a flu the baby experienced before the alleged assault happened.

Colbourne provided the court with a thorough explanation of the baby’s surgery and made a note to tell the court there were old blood cells between layers of the baby’s brain, which suggested previous trauma.

Beakley’s lawyer, Bob McRoberts asked Colbourne if the injuries the baby sustained could have occured previously during the day or even the day before the alleged incident. Colbourne agreed it was a possibility.

When delivering her decision, Hyslop said the lack of eye witnesses coupled with the doctor’s inability to directly pin-point the time of the baby’s injuries created a reasonable doubt Beakley committed the crime.

Cassandra Gunn appeared expressionless for most of the hearing and showed no reaction when Hyslop said her spoken evidence to the court differered from her discussions with the doctor at the Children’s Hospital.

Hyslop also made mention of Gunn’s history of depression and suicide attempts for which she was on prescription medication, but quit taking after the baby's birth. During the trial, Gunn admitted to self-medicating with marijuana.

Both Beakley and Gunn said the infant was often inconsolable which caused tension in the home and in their relationship. The court heard the baby would cry for hours at a time. Both parents would use alternative methods of placing the baby in an open kitchen drawer, in an open closet or wrapping her tightly in a blanket.

On one occasion, Beakley said he saw Gunn slap the baby, which she denied in court. Hyslop however sided with Beakley.

“I accept the slapping occurred,” she said.

After Hyslop said she agreed Gunn slapped the child, Gunn’s mother left the courtroom. Following the decision, Beakley waited to leave until Gunn’s family cleared the courtroom.

Gunn sobbed and said the trial was for “nothing.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email gbrothen@infotelnews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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