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Judge To Decide Fate of Philly Baby

May 26, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The parents of a 20-month-old boy who has been comatose for more than a year are fighting efforts to take him off life support. The father is charged with causing the toddler’s irreparable brain injuries by violently shaking him.

A Delaware County judge was to decide today during a closed hearing whether to give legal custody of little Shirron Lewis of Chester to the county’s Children and Youth Services. If he agrees, he will later have to decide whether to allow the county to remove the boy from life support, which doctors say will kill him.

``It would be the humane thing to do,″ court-appointed lawyer Barbara Scarlata said. ``This is prolonging his death.″

The father, Ronald Lewis, has been charged with attempted murder, but if Shirron dies the charges are likely to be upgraded.

Shirron, then 5 months old, was rushed to the hospital in March 1998. Prosecutors say Lewis shook him so violently that the baby is now in a persistent vegetative state _ blind, deaf and unable to swallow on his own.

Doctors say the boy does not have any conscious thoughts and reacts only to severe pain. They say he will not recover.

Lewis, 43, who was watching little Shirron the night of the alleged assault, said he didn’t cause the injuries and doesn’t know how it happened, defense attorney Wayne Punshon said.

Lewis and Jackie Allen, Shirron’s mother, say they don’t want a court to decide what is best for their child.

Lewis ``wants a say in the question of whether the child’s life is terminated because he doesn’t think that man should make the decision. It is solely God’s (decision),″ Punshon said. He didn’t know what religion Lewis practices.

The couple, who are engaged and were living together at the time of the incident, also have an infant.

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