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Baby Wasn’t Smothered, Expert Says: Prosecutors Question Seizure Claim

Garrett E. Wilson’s 5 1/2-month-old son died from a seizure and was not murdered, a pathologist testified in his defense yesterday.

“My theory is that somehow the baby had a seizure in the crib and did not recover from it,” Dr. Miles Jones, a professional pathologist from Missouri, testified in Mr. Wilson’s murder trial yesterday.

Mr. Wilson is on trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court on a charge that he murdered his son.

He will face a charge that he murdered his 2-month-old daughter, Brandi Jean, in a Prince George’s County court in September.

Prosecutors say Mr. Wilson killed his children to collect $190,000 in insurance money. He was the last to see both infants alive.

Defense lawyer Barry H. Helfand rested his case after Dr. Jones gave his testimony yesterday.v

Dr. Jones’ testimony contradicted statements the prosecutors’ expert witnesses provided against Mr. Wilson.

Dr. Jones said the swelling medical examiners found in Garrett Michael’s brain after his death was a pre-existing condition that had nothing to do with smothering. Medical examiners said the swelling indicated the boy was smothered.

“It is not a phenomenon that occurs after death,” Dr. Jones said. “It did not happen from an acute smothering event.”

He added that both Garrett Michael and Brandi Jean may have died from other ailments medical examiners did not detect during their autopsies.

State medical examiners originally said both deaths were caused by sudden infant death syndrome, or “crib death.” But they changed their opinion about Garrett Michael’s death to homicide-suffocation. And Brandi Jean’s death report was changed to reflect “probable suffocation” by an “undetermined” source.

County prosecutor David Boynton pointed out that Dr. Jones had not reviewed statements given by witnesses and photographs of the children prior to forming his opinions. He also tried to show Dr. Jones did not spend enough time preparing for the trial and researching the facts in the case.

It’s a smoke screen,” Mr. Boynton said of Dr. Jones’ testimony.

Mr. Helfand had called only one other witness, the Rev. Joseph Edmonds of the First Baptist Church of Ballston, Va., who said Mr. Wilson appeared in a “state of shock” the day Brandi Jean died in 1981.

Mr. Helfand said he did not put Mr. Wilson on the stand because he is confident prosecutors have not done their job.

“The state hasn’t made a case” against Mr. Wilson, Mr. Helfand said. “There is nobody that knows how this baby [Garrett Michael] died.”

The 11-man, five-woman jury will hear closing arguments from prosecutors and the defense today.

State’s Attorney Douglas Gansler said he would sum up the “mountain of evidence” he has accumulated against Mr. Wilson during his closing statement today.

Dr. Linda Norton, an expert forensic pathologist, testified for prosecutors Tuesday that Brandi Jean was murdered. Without naming Mr. Wilson, she said someone suffocated the baby by pressing her face flat against her crib mattress.

Maryland’s chief medical examiner, Dr. John Smialek, testified Tuesday that someone murdered Garrett Michael by smothering him.

Client Reviews
"I have watched Mr. Helfand in trial and in negotiations. He is remarkable. Mr. Helfand is extremely knowledgeable in the law, and even more knowledgeable in the ways to deal with people." Afshin Pishevar, Criminal Defense Attorney in Rockville, MD
"I strongly endorse this lawyer. I have known Mr. Helfand for many years. We have worked together on cases and represented conflicting parties. I have watched Mr. Helfand in trial and in negotiations. He is remarkable." David Felsen, Criminal Defense Attorney in Rockville, MD
"It’s one of the biggest cases that’s been tried in Montgomery County in a long time,” said Steve VanGrack, a Rockville lawyer considering a Democratic bid for state’s attorney." Washington Post