Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
As a criminal trial in Fairfax County tries to determine who, or what, caused 4-month-old Noah Whitmer’s brain hemorrhage, the debate over whether “shaken baby syndrome” exists has erupted into a national battle of the experts.
Most criminal trials focus on what the defendant did and didn’t do. But in this case, the complicated matter of what’s humanly possible is at center stage.
Already on the jury’s plate:
Craig Futterman, a Fairfax pediatrician and president of the national Shaken Baby Alliance, testified that 50 Gs of force — 50 times the force of gravity — are required to shake an infant’s brain and cause serious damage. Kirk L. Thibault, a biomechanical engineer from Philadelphia, responded for the defense that tests conducted with adult humans found that a very strong man could generate 20 Gs of force by shaking a crash-test dummy the size of a 6-month-old child.