Presenting Medical Evidence in Child Abuse Cases

Presenting Medical Evidence in Child Abuse Cases
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2020-03-11
Unit 1Slide Deck: Presenting Medical Evidence in Child Abuse Cases
Unit 2Workbook: Presenting Medical Evidence in Child Abuse Cases
Unit 3Recording: Presenting Medical Evidence in Child Abuse Cases

Proving abuse can be infuriating. Victims are questioned on the validity of the claim of abuse and are subjected to retraumatization as the incident is recounted in court.  In such cases where evidence fades and stories may be fabricated, the best way to prove abuse is by seeing it through the lens of a medical expert.

Back on Justice Clearinghouse are Laurie and Roger Blevins. Laurie is an attorney in private practice focused on children’s law for twenty-five years. Meanwhile, Roger is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner practicing child abuse pediatrics and qualified as a medical expert in child abuse, sexual abuse, and homicide trials.

Concepts they unpacked on this webinar are:

  • Abusive head injury
    • The details of the case of an 8-month old who was slapped on the face.
    • The challenge of convincing the jury on the gravity of this abuse.
    • Demonstrating the abuse to the jury by looking at its exterior manifestation.
    • Proving and explaining the severity of the injury internally through a medical expert.
    • A drill-down on the damage a slap can inflict on the child’s brain and airway.
  • Beating
    • A glimpse into a deceased beating victim’s internal injuries and deep tissue bleeding that can be used to educate on the danger of forceful spanking.
    • A case where the victim did not manifest external bruising.
    • How “spanking” may cause life-threatening injury including deep tissue bleeding, shock, and kidney damage or failure.
    • The procedures that medical experts are expected to perform to victims of beating.
    • A look into a belt beating case of a 12-year old boy with aggravating elements of neglect and delayed medical care.
    • Questions that investigators must ask the beaten child to understand the motivation of the perpetrator better.
    • Factors to consider when proving actual abuse when defense argues discipline and accidental injury.
    • Ways medical professionals can help build a timeline on what actually transpired through the medical history taking interview.
    • Another case example where an 8-year-old girl was subjected to multiple objects beating that caused her flesh to get torn and have permanent scars.
  • Throughout the course, guidelines on questions to ask medical experts during the direct examination were provided to enable prosecutors to build a stronger case and prove the critical and even life-long impact of abuse to a child
  • How the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study provides the strongest argument against any type of abuse on children.

Roger and Laurie addressed concerns during the Q&A on:

  • Conducting myoglobin tests – it’s availability and equipment used.
  • How long after the trauma is myoglobin excreted.
  • Recommendations for scene investigators when interviewing and documenting evidence.
  • Guidelines when photographing injuries and the use of ultraviolet and infrared photography.
  • The medical examiner’s responsibilities and needed familiarity with child abuse cases.


Audience Comments

  • “The webinar was great and informative.” — Conrad
  • “All of the information was extremely valuable and well presented….” — Delicia
  • “Excellent examples. I know pictures were hard to look at but critical to understand the conversation.” — Donna
  • “Outstanding job explaining the topics – I can tell they are experts in the field!” — Elizabeth
  • “The webinar provided very practical and useful tips in prosecuting child abuse cases.” — Ellen
  • “I think the most valuable thing for me to get out of this as one of the investigators who will be responding to these types of calls is hearing from the medical side of it what types of information is valuable during the initial investigations that may ordinarily be overlooked. This was very valuable information and I appreciate the opportunity to attend this webinar.” — Robert
  • “This was an excellent presentation combining the medical and legal issues surround this topic.” — Margaret
  • “The most valuable thing I learned was questions to ask about the situation. I have very limited experience with these issues and providing examples and past experiences are very helpful.” — Shawn


Additional Resources
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