A Report from Friday’s Court Session February 5, 2010 with Randall Alexander in the witness box.
Randall Alexander – A primary witness for the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Proviso: Lawyer Doug Christie's questions to discredit the specific testimony of Randall Alexander in the Bayne case and my blog post here should NOT be interpreted as disapproval of efforts to prevent shaken baby and prosecution of criminal abuse of children.
This will have cost MCFD thousands of dollars. It would be different if 'Jason' Alexander had flown in from California. Remember ‘George Costanza’ from Seinfeld fame? At least then you could laugh. Instead, on Friday, directly from Florida, 'Randall' Alexander took the witness box to provide testimony for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. What he says is not a laughing matter. He is not humorous. It is the stuff of nightmares. For caregivers, falsely accused, his name on the roster of witnesses is always disquieting.
Doug Christie began to cross examine him as soon as possible. Alexander’s credentials were touted by MCFD lawyer Finn Jensen to bolster his credibility as a witness with expertise in determining whether shaken baby abuse had occurred with the Bayne child. His expertise has been accepted before in countless cases and on the basis of his testimony people have been found guilty of a variety of offenses. Many people are in prison today and many children are in foster care on the strength of his testimony. Christie’s dissection of Alexander’s credibility began with reference to a media account of a case in which a father was found guilty of murdering his six month old daughter and he was sentenced to life in prison. An Appeals Court judge found Dr. Alexander’s conduct shocking and prejudicial and his testimony was discarded and the defendant given a reduced sentence.
In a another case in which Alexander gave testimony against the defendant, the father was initially found guilty but the sentence was reversed and the defendant exonerated. Christie referenced yet another case in which the court deemed that Alexander allegedly acted in an inappropriate manner and in a short while on Friday the infallibility of this expert was being diminished. (all public information) I wish that this citation of questionable testimonies would make more cautious, the hundreds of child protection workers, pediatricians, police agencies and prosecution lawyers, who have confidence in and continue to rely on Alexander’s opinion about one theoretical diagnosis. Alexander is a Director for the National Center for Shaken Baby which occupies a this Utah office complex.
For Alexander, every child exhibiting the triad* of symptoms is a shaken baby. Dr. Alexander has never testified for the defense in a case and his CV indicates that he trains pediatricians, RCMP, judges, prosecutors and social workers to convict shaken baby perpetrators. He does not train defense lawyers. (*see tomorrow's blog post for the triad details)
With specific reference to the Bayne case, here is what we learned on Friday. Dr. Alexander admitted that he had seen the film work for Bethany’s injuries only the day before he took the stand yet he had written his report on the case a significant amount of time earlier. Dr. Alexander’s report was one page and a few lines in length. Christie ascertained that the cited sources for Alexander's decision was information from Dr. Colboune at BC Children's Hospital, a history of the case provided to him by the prosecution and some of the Bayne's experts' reports. There was no indication in the witness'report that he had seen or read the hospital reports from Matsqui, Chilliwack and Fraser Canyon Hospitals where Bethany was also examined in the days prior to admission at Vancouver Children’s Hospital. Under Christie's questioning, Alexander acknowledged that he had not read Bethany’s birth records where the severe prematurity factor should have been considered for a prudent rather than default assessment of cause for the symptoms observed. He also did not read all of the ten reports by other experts who, like him had examined Bethany’s medical data but rendered opinions that pointed to other causes and discounted shaken baby syndrome. He admitted upon questioning that he came to this moment of testimony, not knowing that the accidental fall of one child upon Bethany had been witnessed, or how heavy the falling child was or the speed at which the falling boy impacted the infant girl or the type of floor she was lying on, or what kind of physical reaction Bethany had at the time of the accident or that during the three weeks following the accident she had fits of vomiting, and therefore Christie submitted to court that Alexander had written his report based on incomplete medical history.
Christie's submission was noteworthy because in spite of the absence of information and preparedness, Alexander was claiming to be an expert who could render an opinion in this case that should help to prove that Bethany was a shaken baby and that Paul and Zabeth are abusers and that they do not deserve to have children in their home.
Christie introduced to court a damaging video as the last exhibit of the day. In this video Alexander is giving testimony in court in another shaken baby case while holding a doll in his hands to demonstrate the effect that shaking a baby would actually have. In this case the neck collapsed and the doll’s head fell off. Noticeably uncomfortable he fumbled with the doll’s head to reattach it to the body. This exhibit displayed the content and delivery of testimony which Alexander customarily provides for the prosecution at the expense of grieving and suffering families.
The payment that MCFD approved for Alexander's testimony, his flight and his accommodation was covered by all of us in British Columbia. At a great disadvantage are parents like the Baynes who are typically without the resources to bring medical professionals who would like to help. But wait for Tuesday's report of Monday's scheduled witness for the Baynes.