A jury has found a man not guilty of killing his son, eight years after the 13-week-old was found unresponsive in his Victorian home.
- A jury finds Scott Hammond not guilty of child homicide
- Doctors resuscitated 13-week-old Braxton, but he suffered “irreversible brain damage”, and died of his injuries nine days after he was taken to hospital
- Medical experts say Braxton’s injuries, including eye injuries, rib fractures, a leg fracture, and brain swelling were seen in babies who were shaken
Braxton Hammond received catastrophic injuries, the court heard, while the prosecution alleged the baby was “repetitively shaken” at Colac, south-west of Melbourne in 2011.
A jury has acquitted 29-year-old Scott Robert Hammond of causing the child’s fatal injuries.
Mr Hammond pleaded not guilty to murder and child homicide at the Supreme Court sitting in Geelong, where he faced a four-week criminal trial.
Justice Lex Lasry ruled there was not enough evidence for the jury to find Mr Hammond guilty of murder, and dropped the charge.
Instead, the jury took nearly three days to find Mr Hammond not guilty of child homicide.
‘He wasn’t breathing’
On October 15, 2011 Mr Hammond was looking after Braxton on a Saturday night, while the child’s mother who was his then-partner, Nikita Cook, went to test drive a new car.
While she was out she received a phone call.
“I got a call from Scott who told me that Braxton wasn’t breathing,” Ms Cook tearfully told the court.
“I raced home and when I got there Scott was standing at the front door with Brax.”
“I took Brax off him and drove to Colac Hospital with Brax still on my shoulder and left the car at the front door.”
‘She was a gutted woman’
Registered nurse, Narelle Andrews, who was working at the Colac Hospital Emergency Department on the day Braxton was admitted, said it was a night she would not forget and a “highly stressful situation”.
“I was passed a floppy baby by a visibly distraught mother … she was a gutted woman,” Ms Andrews said.
“Braxton was blue … and cold and floppy, like a ragdoll.”
She said Mr Hammond told her he was feeding the baby when he stopped drinking and turned a “funny colour”.
The jury heard that medical staff began CPR at the hospital, while they waited for a more experienced doctor to be called in to the emergency ward.
Dr Denes Borsos arrived within minutes and helped resuscitate the child.
The court heard he used a defibrillation machine to stabilise the boy who was then placed into a medical cot and incubated.
“He had suffered irreversible brain damage,” Dr Borsos told the jury.
Braxton was flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital where he died of his injuries nine days later, after his life support was turned off.
Evidence child’s injuries were caused by shaking
Paediatrician Amanda Gwee, who assessed Braxton while he was in the intensive care unit in hospital, told the court the baby suffered from brain injuries, eye injuries, rib fractures, a leg fracture, and severe swelling on the brain.
“I found the brain and eye injuries Braxton had has been seen in babies who are shaken,” Dr Gwee said.
“It’s something we don’t see with the normal handling and settling of babies.”
Under cross-examination by defence counsel, Stewart Bayles, Dr Gwee was asked whether the injuries could have been caused by a fall.
“It would need to be a high-impact fall, either a fall from more than 1 metre or a fall from a height with a tumbling mechanism,” Dr Gwee said.
But she said she would have expected to see a fracture of the skull as well if the baby had suffered a serious fall.
United States National Centre on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Professor John Alexander, gave evidence that Braxton’s injuries were a result of being “repetitively shaken”.
“This was very severe force; this isn’t a parent that was rough with a child,” Professor Alexander said.
“This really is very severe to cause this and it’s repetitive back and forth shaking … a single shake wouldn’t do it.”
Doctors from the hospital told the jury there was no explanation given by Braxton’s parents as to how his injuries occurred.
‘He seemed pale and floppy’
In a statement made to police months after his son was injured, Mr Hammond said he took Braxton from Ms Cook as she left the house.
“I gave Braxton a bottle of water, but he didn’t take it,” Mr Hammond told police.
“He seemed pale and floppy and looked like he was in shock.
“I was able to settle him down, I had a shower and then found him with water coming out of his mouth and he wasn’t breathing.”
It was then Mr Hammond called Ms Cook, but there was no evidence to suggest he called an ambulance.
The jury also heard Mr Hammond would react angrily when Braxton cried.
“He got frustrated and he would swear at [Braxton],” Ms Cook told the court.
Crown Prosecutor Melissa Mahady argued Mr Hammond had told various people different accounts of what happened on that Saturday night in Hearne Street, which were different to the statement he made to police.
Defence Counsel Stewart Bayles told the jury Ms Cook could not be excluded from causing the fatal injuries to her son.
Topics: courts-and-trials, murder-and-manslaughter, babies—newborns, colac-3250, irrewarra-3249, geelong-3220
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