New trial sought in DuPage shaken baby case
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Matthew Czapski was 10 months old in August 1994 when he suffered injuries that left him in a vegetative state. He died more than a year later at age 2.
Now the Bartlett woman who was convicted of causing Matthew's fatal injuries is hoping to get a new trial in a bid to prove she's innocent.
Former day care worker Pamela Jacobazzi has been persistent in proclaiming her innocence since a jury convicted her of murder in 1999.
On Monday, Jacobazzi's attorney said the jury was never told about evidence that the child had medical conditions that could have been mistaken as shaken baby syndrome.
"The jury did not hear the most important facts in this case," said Anthony Sassan, Jacobazzi's attorney, during the opening of an evidentiary hearing.
This week's hearing in Wheaton could result in a new trial for Jacobazzi, who is serving a 32-year prison sentence. While she's eligible for parole in two years, Jacobazzi hopes to clear her name before then.
An appellate court granted Jacobazzi a review after her attorney argued the jury never heard about pre-existing medical conditions that could have caused the boy's death. Those conditions include sickle cell trait and anemia.
Sassan said the state's case was based on the assumption that Matthew was "absolutely healthy" and that an impact didn't cause his injuries.
Medical experts testified for the prosecution in 1999 that the child had internal head injuries that could be attributed only to being shaken.
During his opening statement on Monday, Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Ruggiero said Matthew was "a healthy little boy" when his mother dropped him off on Aug. 11, 1994, at the day care. When his mother picked him up later that day, Matthew was unresponsive and had to be taken to a hospital.
Doctors later testified Matthew's injuries caused bleeding in his brain and eyes. The injuries were so severe they blinded the child and required surgery. He never recovered his sight or mental capacities and lived in a coma until his death on Dec. 19, 1995.
"This was not an accident," Ruggiero said. "He didn't fall."
Jacobazzi never admitted shaking Matthew. But police said she asked what would happen to her if she did confess.
Jacobazzi has since said she doesn't recall making that statement.
Ruggiero argues Jacobazzi was convicted after getting a fair jury trial. He said the lawyers who represented her knew about Matthew's medical history but decided not to bring it up.
Instead, the defense attorneys made "a strategic decision" to focus on a bump the child had on his head days before he was hospitalized, according to Ruggiero. Medical witnesses for the prosecution testified during the trial that the symptoms of Matthew's injuries would have shown almost immediately.
Prosecutors are challenging whether the child's symptoms could have resulted from a naturally occurring illness. Ruggiero called the defense's theory "concocted" and "made up."
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