Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MASSACHUSETTS AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE DEATH OF NORTON BABY AS POTENTIAL HOMICIDE

As last week began, I told you that we would be ending the week with another criminal justice aspect of what puts our kids at risk.

As the week went on, between school shootings, strong-arming federal agents and dead infants, it turned out to be rather difficult to choose. But, as we begin a new week, let’s hit some of these…starting with a story from Saturday’s Boston Globe.

It is the story of the death of a 3 ½ year old boy from Norton
Authorities are investigating the death of a 3 ½-month boy (hereinafter, the “Baby”) from Norton. The Baby died at a Rhode Island hospital after being rushed Wednesday night to Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro. The Office of Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter are investigating the matter.

As you know, when death is involved, and a prosecution is at hand, the potential criminal charge is usually some kind of homicide. However, a spokesman for Sutter has stated that, at this time, the death is not considered suspicious.

Authorities say that The Baby was taken by ambulance to Sturdy Memorial after officials received a 911 call at about 10:08 p.m. on Wednesday about a baby in distress. The Baby was deemed to be in critical condition when he arrived there and was transported to Hasbro Children’s Hospital at about 10:45 p.m.

An autopsy is set to be performed on the baby to determine the cause of death.

A spokesman for the Department of Children and Families says that DCF is also investigating. The family does, after all, have another child…a twin sister of the Baby. DCF also indicates that the family has not been involved with state child welfare officials…previously.

Attorney Sam’s Take On The Tragic Death Of A Baby

As there is still a child living with the family, I would expect that non-involvement with DCF is about to end.

Words cannot express what a tragedy it is when a helpless child dies. The tragedy is certainly not diminished when the death is not due to any loss of temper or evil intent. Perhaps, when it is simply an accident, it is even worse.

It is certainly not unusual for medical examiners and law enforcement to look into the death of a baby. Such a death is simply not supposed to happen and, when it does, there is a need to find out how it did happen.

There is something, however, that you need to know.

Sometimes tragedies happen. Sometimes they happen organically and sometimes they happen accidentally. The reaction to “accidentally”, though, has changed over the years.

In today’s criminal justice system, there seem to be very few things that are considered simple “accidents”. Today, so many of these occurrences are treated like crimes.

“But, Sam, how can there be a crime if there is no evil intent or loss of temper?”

Because what the Commonwealth might label “negligence” is now often treated as a criminal act. Particularly in situations in which someone has died, much less a small child, and blame can be placed on someone living, the bearer of that perceived blame gets the label of “criminal defendant”.

And, yes, as with other crimes, there are double-standards to be found. Perhaps later this week I will give you a case in chief involving motor vehicle homicides.

These deaths are not supposed to happen. When they do, there seems to be a need for someone to be blamed. In today’s system, law enforcement has learned to take that need to heart.

Is it simply law enforcement who has this need? I would say that it is not. Law enforcement, and the politicians who control it, answer to public outcry.

On Sunday, there was another article on Boston.com. It discussed various babies who died in a particular type of car seat, the “Nap Nanny” infant chair. After babies fell off the chair and were found hanging in the safety harness, the seat was recalled. However, it would seem that some parents did not know this and would pick the chair up in secondary markets such as yard sales.

To the uninformed eye, it just seemed like a perfectly good baby seat.
Today, however, an uninformed eye is a dangerous thing to have.

Following the report of a sixth death about a week ago, the issue has come up again. Part of the outcry is why a parent would put their baby into such a dangerous item. The question, of course, assumes that the parent knew that the item was dangerous.

The bottom line?

Well, a consumer alert posted on Boston.com this past weekend ended with the following:

“Recalls can be a pain, but most are issued for good reason. Being unaware is one thing – not good, mind you – but anyone knowingly putting a child in a product in which six babies died (more than just about any other infant product) is indefensible.”

And we are going to prove ( in a criminal proceeding), that a parent had that knowledge…how?

Needless to say, the loss of a baby must cause unspeakable pain to a parent. It is hard to imagine how bringing charges against the parent for making a mistake is going to “teach them a lesson” or do anything else worthwhile.

Be aware, though. Such charges can come and do come.

As grief-stricken as a parent may be under such circumstances, it is often necessary for the parent to keep aware of law enforcement and its tendency to place blame…criminal blame…upon the other grieving victims in the tragedy.

The parents.

For the full stories upon which this blog is based, please go to:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/06/06/death-norton-baby-investigated/paHFTipgalzK1qLFwc1q6O/story.html and http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/06/07/infant-deaths-underscore-importance-heeding-recalls/90JcCPnV3DMW4I8eX4sARK/story.html

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