Veronica Martinez Salcedo, an illegal immigrant, has been a defendant in two trials in criminal court. Both trials ended in mistrials. The criminal proceedings were centered on the death of 16 month-old Hannah Rose. It is alleged that Little Hannah died from injuries sustained due to Shaken Baby Syndrome at the hands of Ms. Salcedo.
While the criminal charges have been dropped, Ms. Salcedo faces a wrongful death civil lawsuit. Ms. Salcedo is also facing deportation after hearings with the immigration officials are held.
The rules for criminal trials and wrongful death civil lawsuits are different. In a wrongful death civil lawsuit the preponderance of the evidence does not have to rise to the level of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, as is the case with murder charges in criminal court. Therefore, while a defendant may not be convicted in criminal court, a defendant may be convicted in a wrongful death civil lawsuit on similar evidence.
One common form of child abuse found in infants is Shaken Baby Syndrome. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is an injurious condition caused by the shaking of an infant or child. The action of rapidly shaking an infant or child causes the sudden forward, backward and sideway motion of the head. During the shaking action the brain is injured from hitting against the inside of the bony skull, causing inflammation, bleeding, separation of vessels and nerve fibers in the soft brain tissue on all sides of the brain. The brain of an infant or child is very soft because it has more water content and it is easier to injure than an adult brain. Therefore, less energy is required to cause lethal injury to an infant or child’s brain. In SBS, the eyes may get injured by the sudden increase in pressure and motion around the soft tissues that make up the delicate structure of the eyes. After the shaking, the brain and the eyes bleed inside the confined spaces they are contained in. This bleeding causes high pressure to build within the head and eyes. The damage caused by shaking the head, brain and eye structures and the increasing high pressure that follows causes permanent injury or death for the infant or child. If death does not occur the infant or child may be left with permanent brain damage, blindness, neuromuscular disability, paralysis, deafness, learning disabilities and/or a seizure disorder. According to the CDC, 1,490 children died from abuse and neglect in the Unites States for the year 2004. This number decreased in 2005 to 1,460 deaths. Greater than 75% of these deaths occurred in children under four years of age. A total of 872,000 children were reportedly abused in that same time frame. In 2005, child protective services investigated 3.6 million cases of reported child abuse complaints, which resulted in discovery of 899,000 cases of child abuse. Higher rates of abuse occur in the African-American population at 1,950 per 100,000 children. Girls are at a higher risk to be victims of maltreatment than boys. Mothers have demonstrated a more frequency tendency to abuse and are generally younger in age than male adult abusers. However male adult abusers inflict more severe abuse outcomes.