In addition to the new medical evidence, there are many facts in Brian’s case that should raise concern as to the validity of guilt. When each issue is highlighted and pointed out, it becomes more evident that in this case there was significant reasonable doubt. However, because of ineffective lawyers, faulty antiquated medical science, and emotion and outrage at the death of a child, Brian was convicted. The following are enumerated issues of concern that should raise questions in everyone’s minds:
1. On Thursday, January 18, 1996, four days before Christopher’s death, two daycare workers, Susan Camara and Janet Souza, at WORD Daycare Center in Fall River questioned Ms. Sneed about suspicious bruises on Christopher’s back and face. Ms. Sneed responded jokingly by stating, “I know, he looks like an abused kid, huh.” Although the workers did not properly document their concerns at the time, they later confirmed the exchange in police reports and testimony. Brian was NEVER told of the conversations Ms. Sneed had with the daycare workers.
- During cross examination, why did Ms. Sneed LIE and testify that the day care workers never said anything to her about any bruises?
- How is it that the daycare was not held accountable for failing to file a 51A when they saw all those bruises?
- Could Christopher’s death have been prevented if the day care followed proper protocol?
2. According to Ms. Sneed’s statements and testimony, Christopher fell down the stairs while in her sole custody ten days before his death. At her mother’s urging, Ms. Sneed brought him to the ER on January 12, 1996 where he was diagnosed with a contusion on his forehead and a broken collarbone. Ms. Sneed was given specific, written instructions to bring Christopher to the ER immediately if he was showing signs of a head injury. Shockingly, Ms. Sneed admitted that after his fall, Christopher was acting very strangely, wobbly, lethargic and very quiet. She described him as “acting drunk.”
- Why didn’t Ms. Sneed bring Christopher to the ER, as she was instructed, when he was clearly showing the symptoms that she was warned about?
- Did she not bring him to the ER because she was concerned about the ER doctors discovering the bruises pointed out by the day care workers?
3. According to Ms. Sneed’s statements and testimony, she finally called the pediatrician on January 20, 1996 because of Christopher’s symptoms. She testified that she was allegedly given an appointment to bring him in on January 22, 1996, the day of his death. Ms. Sneed testified that the morning of the 22nd Christopher was so symptomatic that she decided not to send him to day care. Amazingly, she also decided not to bring Christopher to his pediatrician appointment that same day. BRIAN WAS NEVER TOLD OF THIS APPOINTMENT. We believe that Christopher was the victim of abuse by his mother.
- Why did Ms. Sneed wait so long to report Christopher’s symptoms?
- Why didn’t Ms. Sneed want Christopher to go to day care?
- If Christopher was so symptomatic that she kept him from day care, why would she then not be sure that he made his pediatrician appointment?
- Dr. Laposata stated that, in his opinion, Christopher’s injuries were “survivable and treatable” if he had been brought back to the ER. If Ms. Sneed had brought Christopher to his pediatrician’s appointment, would Christopher be alive today?
- It was Dr. Laposata’s opinion that it was obvious that the reason Ms. Sneed did not take Christopher to the ER or the pediatrician appointment is because she did not want the suspicious bruises being discovered.
- Ms. Sneed was the ONLY adult who had access to Christopher and who was aware of (1) his fall down the stairs; (2) the warning from the ER; (3) the bruises pointed out at the day care; (4) the appointment with the pediatrician.
- Who does the evidence point to?
4. The night of Christopher’s death at the hospital, an exchange between Ms. Sneed and her daughter was witnessed by Cory Oliveira, DSS social worker on call at St. Anne’s Hospital. According to Ms. Oliveira’s statement and notes, and as witnessed by Ms. Oliveira, when Tarissa was brought into Ms. Oliveira’s office, Ms. Sneed asked Tarissa for a hug. Tarissa shook her head no, backed-up and said, “I don’t want you.” However, Tarissa left the hospital alone with Brian. Ms. Oliveira considered this exchange important enough to document it in her notes. See DSS Cory Oliveira notes
- Why would Tarissa push away her mother but leave with the person she allegedly witnessed abuse and brutally murder her brother?
- Shouldn’t the jury have been allowed to hear this testimony by Ms. Oliveira?
5. Before Brian met Ms. Sneed, she already had a history with the Department of Social
Services (DSS). She was investigated for allegations of child neglect. Among other things, as a small child, Christopher was hospitalized after swallowing an open safety pin. Reports indicate that neighbors had called DSS to investigate other incidents of child neglect in Ms. Sneed’s home. Police statements confirm that Ms. Sneed’s mother was trying to take the children from her.
- If Ms. Sneed was not a suspect, why was Tarissa taken from Ms. Sneed’s custody the night of Christopher’s death?
- Following Brian’s trial, why was full custody of Tarissa taken from Ms. Sneed and given to Chris Affonso Sr. who is not her biological father?
- Ms. Sneed was pregnant on the stand at the trial. She gave birth in August of 1997. The father is a Fall River police officer. Ms. Sneed never had custody of this child.
- Five months later Ms. Sneed was pregnant again. The father is a corrections officer. Again, she never had custody of this child. She was in court last year trying to get supervised visitation.
- Under the names of Ami N. Sneed and Ami N. Negron, Ms. Sneed has an extensive criminal record with several arrests for drugs, prostitution, shoplifting, and violating abuse prevention orders. She has also spent time in jail
- Prior to his conviction Brian had no criminal record or history of violence or abuse.
7. Brian’s case was highly publicized and he was tried in the media. The prosecution
used emotion, outrage, and anger at the death of a child to set the tone. Jurors were shown several gruesome autopsy photos during Brian’s trial causing emotional outbursts and looks of disgust. In her closing argument the ADA put up a picture of Christopher, smiling, with blue eyes and blond hair and said, “This was Christopher before he met Brian.” Then she put up an autopsy photo and said, “This was Christopher after he met Brian.” Everyone was in tears. Brian’s conviction was based on emotion, not facts.
- Both print and television media dubbed it, “The Ricki Lake Murder” as they focused on the fact that Brian and Ms. Sneed had a spat following an episode of the talk show which featured unwed mothers.
- Brian was labeled, “the bouncer boyfriend” by the media. For more on this please read The Media: Fact and Fiction
8. Lisa Morton testified that Brian showed up at her house covered in blood.
- Brian had been to the hospital twice prior to arriving at her house. He had been in the presence of hospital security and several other witnesses. Brian was not “covered in blood.” Why did Ms. Morton make this claim? And why were the jurors allowed to hear it?
9. As reflected in testimony, Drs. Weiner and Newberger, the state’s medical experts, disagreed on the ages of some of the injuries. Their aging of the bruises was done merely through color in autopsy photographs.
- Why weren’t forensic tests done to scientifically age the bruises?
- Why were autopsy photos introduced at trial that were never turned over to the defense?
- Brian’s trial attorney did not call a medical expert to testify for the defense or to contest any of the inconsistent opinions or conclusions offered by the prosecution’s medical witnesses. Why was the opinion of Dr. Weiner, the M.E., never challenged, but rather taken as fact by the defense attorney?
10. The hospital deacon made a statement to the police that he heard Mario DeCunha, the St. Anne’s Hospital security officer, tell Brian to leave the hospital because he did not want a conflict between Christopher’s father and Brian. However, Ms. Sneed testified that she never asked Brian to leave with her daughter testifying, “Brian just left me at the front door of the hospital and left with Tarissa.” Ms. Sneed further claimed that Brian said that he was leaving because “he didn’t want to be blamed.”
- The prosecutor used Ms. Sneed’s testimony to show “Consciousness of Guilt by Evidence of Flight.”
- Brian’s attorney never called Mr. DeCunha or the hospital Deacon to disprove Ms. Sneed’s claim that Brian fled the hospital.
11. During Brian’s probable cause hearing, ER Doctor John Arcuri testified that the night of Christopher’s death he ordered postmortem x-rays to specifically check for a skull fracture, which in itself was highly unusual. However, Dr. Arcuri testified that he reviewed a report by the St. Anne’s Hospital Radiologist, Dr. Debra Kimball, where she concluded there was no skull fracture. This is in contradiction with the medical examiner’s autopsy report which states that the cause of death was a 6” skull fracture caused by blunt force trauma.
- Dr. Arcuri was not sufficiently cross examined about his controversial ordering of the post-mortem x-ray. He spoke of things that were not verified.
- Brian’s attorney never called Dr. Kimball to testify as to her findings, which contradicted the Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, which was then used by Dr. Newberger.
- As confirmed through letters, the prosecution never turned over any reports or x-rays allegedly done by Dr. Kimball to the defense.
- Brian’s family recently found Dr. Kimball in Iowa and spoke with her. Although she does not remember the case specifics she did state:
(a) It was highly unusual for an ER doctor to order an x-ray post-mortem.
(b) She was never contacted by police investigators, anyone from the D.A.’s office or Brian’s attorney about her involvement with this case.
(c) If Dr. Arcuri suspected child abuse there was protocol to follow. A battered child suspicion requires an extensive workup with “multiple, multiple” x-rays.
(d) A CT scan is the only way to determine the age of the fracture by the blood. It would show the inside of the brain and not just the bone around it. A “fresh” pool of blood would have confirmed a new injury. If he was brought in days or even a week following the initial fall a CT scan would have shown a “resolving or maturing” blood pool. A post-mortem CT scan would show the same resolving or maturing blood pool.
(e) Dr. Kimball did confirm that there is no question that, in this case, the baby’s brain was not adequately examined.
According to Dr. Kimball, although protocol for ER post-mortem procedures is jurisdiction-specific, the most common protocol is that an ER doctor cannot order anything or perform any procedures after death has occurred. It is the responsibility of the ME, who must be notified regarding a sudden, unexpected death. There have been significant, documented errors in the MA Medical Examiner’s Office. Medical Imaging studies and reports cannot go “missing.” The Joint Commission for Health Care Organization criteria states that the performing facility must retain pediatric films forever.
12. The medical examiner, Dr. James Weiner, was not board certified in forensic pathology. After the body was taken from St. Anne’s Hospital where no skull fracture was found, it was transported to Dr. Weiner’s office at Cape Cod. The body was then transferred again to the medical examiner’s office in Boston, where a skull fracture was then found. It was unclear from testimony whether Dr. Weiner examined the child’s relevant past medical records at any time during or after the autopsy.
- “Past” refers to ER records from the 1/12/96 fall down stairs, as well as any prior ER or pediatrician records.
- The ME testified that he did not see the ER post-mortem x-rays or report.
13. During the probable cause hearing Dr. Weiner further stated that during the autopsy, he sent the brain to a neuropathology expert for examination; however, at the time of his testimony he had not received the reports back.
- Thus, at the time Dr. Weiner had concluded his pathology report and formed his opinions, he neither examined the brain nor reviewed the neuropathology report, an unacceptable practice highly criticized by both Dr. Kimball and Dr. Squier.
14. All of the medical experts featured on the Frontline episode pointed out specific, common mistakes, as well as changing science in pediatric forensics. Of the most common mistakes detailed by this panel were: 1) errors in autopsy findings and causes of death; 2) failure of pathologist to consult specialist in childhood injuries or ailments; 3) failure to review past medical records for pre-existing medical conditions that could affect conclusions; 4) forensic pathologists working too closely with authorities, affecting objectivity; 5) many of the nation’s Medical Examiners not being board-certified in forensic pathology; and 6) second opinions never being offered as to findings of state pathologists. Frontline and Propublica: The Child Cases
- At the time of the autopsy, Dr. Weiner was unaware of the child’s previous fall and injuries sustained in the fall on January 12, 1996.
- Also in question is the medical examiner’s objectivity at the time of the autopsy. Present at the autopsy were three state police detectives, two state police sergeants, investigator from the Bristol County DA’s office and two Westport police detectives. POLICE PRESENCE AT THE AUTOPSY OUTNUMBERED THE MEDICAL STAFF 2 TO 1.
- Neither expert for the state had appropriate Board Certifications.
15. During trial, Dr. Eli Newberger, a pediatrician and child abuse expert, with no forensic pathology credentials, testified as to the medical examiner’s findings. Dr. Newberger testified that based on finger shaped marks on Christopher’s upper arm, he believed that he was grabbed and banged against a hard surface such as wood, concrete, or a wall, causing the skull fracture and death.
- Brian’s attorney did not point out that there was no blood, skin, or hair found on any surface in the room.
- Brian requested that his hands be measured to prove that he did not cause the finger mark bruises. Attorney Veary refused. “What if they match,” he asked. “They won’t,” Brian replied.
- Brian believes this could still be proven through photographs.
- Dr. Newberger used the visual comparison of “a fall from a second story window onto concrete” for the jury. This is the SAME statement he made when he testified for the state in the case against Louise Woodward just seven months after Brian’s trial.
- This “visual” comparison has been scientifically disproven by several medical professionals, including Dr. Laposata and forensic pathologist Dr. John Plunkett.
- Dr. Newberger often testifies for the state at a fee of about $10,000. Dr. Newberger could not provide any objective pathological information.
16. According to testimony of Dr. Weiner and Dr. Newberger, the state’s medical experts, none of the bruises found on Christopher could have occurred after he sustained the fatal injury.
- According to testimony, Christopher underwent at least 40 minutes of aggressive lifesaving CPR. Also, there were reported difficulties with intubations and IV access. Studies have shown that results of this type of extensive life saving measures can result in extensive chest and back bruising in a small, easily compressed child, caused by blood flow and blood extravasations into the tissue. Thus, the wounds look pre-mortem.
- This can also explain injuries to the lips and finger shaped bruises on arms. However, because there was no meaningful cross-examination of medical witnesses or testimony offered from a defense pathologist, this was never explored.
17. In his opening statement, Attorney Veary stated that the boy was killed.
- An opening statement is to explain the anticipated proof that will be presented during the course of the trial, and the attorney has an obligation to prove his statement. If attorney Veary stated that the boy was killed, and Brian was his client, the only other person that could be responsible is Ms. Sneed.
- Attorney Veary had previously explained to Brian and his family that he did not want to come off to the jury as attacking a grieving mother. He brought Ms. Sneed a glass of water when she was crying on the stand.
- If he had to prove what he said in his statement, how did he not fully investigate all available evidence against Ms. Sneed in order to prove that Brian was innocent?
18. During Brian’s trial, while he was on the stand testifying, during cross-examination ADA Renee Dupuis attempted to impeach Brian’s testimony by pointing out that during police questioning he asked for an attorney, rather than cooperating with the investigation. Brian’s attorney objected to the ADA’s line of questioning and the judge issued a curative instruction to the jury.
- To the jury, although retracted, they did still have the information the prosecution wanted them to hear.
19. In the judge’s instructions to the jury, the judge did not define an “unlawful killing” in any of his instructions. The judge instructed the jury on first degree and second-degree murder, as well as battery manslaughter.
- In not defining “unlawful killing” anywhere in his instructions, the judge relieved the Commonwealth of its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime with which the defendant is charged.
20. Brian sat in county jail for an entire year without any communication with his court-appointed attorney, Lance Garth, despite countless attempts.
- Attorney Garth showed up on a Friday, with the trial scheduled to start on Monday. Attorney Garth told Brian that he could “get numbers” for a plea. Innocence was not a consideration.
- Brian refused to talk plea since he was innocent and his version of events never varied.
- Brian fired his attorney. He did not want to proceed with someone that did not believe in his innocence and would not be able to defend him with conviction.
- Brian’s family scrambled to find a new attorney. Attorney Veary’s name was a casual recommendation. Due to the short time prior to court, Brian’s family hired Attorney Veary who promised the court he would be ready for trial in 30 days.
21. At the time of Brian’s trial, Brian’s trial attorney, Raymond Veary, had only recently come from the prosecutor’s office into private practice. After the trial he returned to the D.A.’s office. Later both he and the ADA, Renee Dupuis, were appointed as Superior Court Judges and now sit with Judge Charles J. Hely, who denied Brian’s Motion for a New Trial.
“There is no justice in the courts, only law.”
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