Wausau Daily Herald

Retrial possible in infant death

March 17, 2011

An Athens, Wisconsin man jailed for nearly six years is one step closer to having a second chance to prove he didn't shake his infant daughter to death in 2005.

On Tuesday, The Wisconsin Court of Appeals 3rd District based in Wausau upheld a circuit court judge's August 2009 decision to grant 29-year-old Quentin Louis a new trial.

Louis was home alone March 18, 2005, with his 4-month-old daughter, Madelyn, when she became limp and stopped breathing, according to police. She died three days later. Madelyn's death was diagnosed as shaken-baby syndrome.

During a three-hour interview with police, Louis said he became frustrated with Madelyn's crying and shook her as hard as he could, according to court documents. Prosecutors used Louis' confession and medical evidence about her injuries to convince a jury Louis was guilty of first-degree reckless homicide. Louis was sentenced in 2006 to 20 years in prison.

The cause of injuries associated with shaken-baby syndrome has been disputed in recent years by medical and biomechanical experts. As a result, several high-profile shaken-baby cases in Wisconsin have been challenged in court.

Robert Huntington, a forensic pathologist who testified for the prosecution at Louis' trial, has changed his opinion on the cause of Madelyn's injuries. Huntington testified at a March 18, 2009, hearing on Louis' request for a new trial that shaking alone could not have caused Madelyn's severe brain injury and her head must have hit something.

In its written opinion, the appeals court also found the jury did not hear testimony that Madelyn might not have immediately showed symptoms of her injury and jurors were told inaccurate information about her spinal injury. The description of the injuries were key in the diagnosis of shaken-baby syndrome, the court wrote.

The appeals court also ruled that Louis' confession, which he claimed was coerced from him by police, is admissible at his new trial.

Prosecutors will decide in coming weeks if they will ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review the case, Marathon County Assistant District Attorney LaMont Jacobson said Wednesday.

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