KENNEWICK - The lawyer for a woman charged in the death of a 1-year-old Richland boy asked to delay the trial seven months while he consults with a “shaken baby” expert.
Scott Johnson told a judge Wednesday that his client, Kelli Anne Jacobsen, deserves a fair trial and that includes allowing him time to investigate the allegations and prepare his defense.
Johnson said he was able to find an expert in the field of shaken baby syndrome with help from a University of Wisconsin professor, but the man does not have time to review the case until the end of this month or early April. And then, the expert won’t be available to testify until October because of a backlog of other trials, he said.
“Given the complexity of this case, I think it’s justified,” Johnson said of his request for a lengthy delay.
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Judge Vic VanderSchoor said he has confidence in Johnson’s efforts to keep the case moving along, but told him to speak with his expert and see if they can work out an earlier date.
The Benton County Superior Court trial tentatively is set for June 4.
Jacobsen, 27, is charged with first-degree manslaughter. The charges include aggravating circumstances that the victim was particularly vulnerable and incapable of resistance, and that his death had a destructive and foreseeable impact on others.
Jacobsen was the nanny for Ryder Morrison, who died June 22. She is accused of causing a fatal head injury to the boy while watching him at his Richland home. Ryder’s death came a day after his first birthday.
Tawney Johnson, the boy’s mother, had stopped home for lunch and was back at work by noon.
Jacobsen called 911 at 12:14 p.m. saying the boy had just fallen down and his eyes were rolling back in his head. She told Richland Fire Department medics that Ryder was standing on a toy that was 6 inches high and fell and hit his head, according to court documents.
In August, Benton County Coroner John Hansens ruled the death a homicide,
Doctors at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland and other medical experts said Ryder’s injuries were not consistent with the nanny’s account of what happened, court documents said.
Dr. Kenneth Feldman, a pediatrician with Children’s Hospital in Seattle who reviewed Ryder’s medical and autopsy records, said the boy suffered multiple bruises, severe intercranial and eye bleeding, and a neck muscle injury on the same day he died.
A brain bleed normally is caused from severe whiplash events that also can cause neck muscle and spinal cord bleeding, Feldman said.
Prosecutor Andy Miller acknowledged Wednesday that it took the state four months to file charges while police and detectives looked into what happened that day.
That supports the fact it is a complicated case, Miller said, but it doesn’t mean the trial should be delayed until one year after Jacobsen was charged. He also questioned if the trial actually would happen then, or there would be another request to delay.
“It just seems that is too long to continue at this time,” Miller told the court.
Jacobsen had been set to face a jury March 19, though Scott Johnson made it clear at an earlier hearing that it was only a preliminary date.
“I don’t think this case should be rushed. It can’t be rushed,” Johnson said, adding that his client wants to get to the truth of Ryder’s death. “We have to do (the trial) once and do it right.”
Jacobsen waived her right to a speedy trial.