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Autopsy Shows Child Died of Shaken Baby Syndrome; Lawyer Says No Way

April 5, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ A 5-month-old baby whose parents fought to keep on life support was shaken so violently before being hospitalized that she suffered fatal brain damage, according to an autopsy released Thursday.

``The cause of death is shaken-baby syndrome, which is classified as a homicide,″ said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner. The condition results from ``the sudden and sharp whipping movement of the head from front to back,″ she said.

The Queens district attorney was to decide next week whether to present the case to a grand jury for possible prosecution.

A lawyer for Mariah Scoon’s parents disputed the autopsy, suggesting that Mariah could have died from a reaction to a vaccine or sudden infant death syndrome. Mariah’s father, Malcolm Scoon, himself an anesthesiologist, denies shaking the girl hard. He says he tried to rouse her when he found her gasping for air, then administered CPR.

Mariah was brought to Long Island Jewish Medical Center on Feb. 19. Within a few days, doctors declared her brain dead and told child welfare officials they suspected shaken-baby syndrome.

The Scoons, who are born-again Christians, went to court to stop the hospital from removing Mariah’s life support. Finally, St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City offered to keep the baby connected. She was transferred there, but her heart stopped beating March 13.

The week before Mariah was hospitalized, she was vaccinated for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, a shot that can have adverse effects, said Ronald Kuby, the family’s attorney. He also said that ``one of the crucial factors found in almost all shaken-baby syndrome deaths _ the presence of fingermarks or cracked ribs _ was missing in this case.′

But those conditions need not be present to determine shaken-baby syndrome, said Edith Goldie, a pediatrician from New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center who frequently testifies in child-abuse cases. She has not testified in the Scoon case.

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