KUTV

KUTV Salt Lake City, UT

Jan 30, 2007 7:39 pm US/Mountain

New Trial Ordered For Convicted Baby Shaker

Saying defense attorneys were ineffective, the Utah Supreme Court ordered a new trial Tuesday for a man convicted of fatally shaking his girlfriend's baby, who remained alive in a vegetative state for 12 years.

The court's decision focused on brain images of the boy, Luther Deem. A defense expert didn't see them until the morning of trial, and a judge said that person was unqualified to interpret them.

If Warren Hales' attorneys had hired a qualified expert, they could have better questioned "crucial evidence regarding the timing, nature and violence of the injury," the Supreme Court said.

Authorities have said Luther suffered a brain injury in December 1985 when he was 5 months old. The boy's mother, Michelle Westerman, told prosecutors that he was sleeping peacefully under Hales' care while she went to the grocery store.

Doctors diagnosed shaken-baby syndrome based on retinal bleeding, bleeding in the brain and severe swelling. The boy lived until January 1997, unable to see, walk or talk.

In 2000, Hales was charged with murder, accused of shaking the boy and causing the injuries that eventually led to his death. He was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to five years to life in prison.

Hales has claimed Luther was accidentally injured when he slammed on the brakes to avoid another car, and the baby, sitting in an unsecured safety seat, hit the dashboard.

"It's hard to express how relieved and happy I am about this," James Bradshaw, Hales' appellate attorney, said of the Supreme Court decision granting a new trial.


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