LARGO — There's no smoking gun in the murder trial of Tenesia Brown, just a trail of medical evidence.
Brown, 42, is a former foster mother accused of shaking an infant that she was caring for in 2006.
But like many murder cases in which someone is accused of shaking a baby to death, this one does not rest on a confession or a witness who saw what happened. It's based on the testimony of medical experts. And the case may come down to a battle of what those experts say.
In opening statements Tuesday, Assistant State Attorney David Tobiassen said Brown picked up 14-month-old Lazon Gulley from day care in March 2006. Not long after, she made a series of phone calls to her husband and to 911.
Lazon was taken to All Children's Hospital and found to be "neurologically devastated," Tobiassen said. The boy suffered bleeding in his brain and his retinas, even though he did not have external injuries. His death two years later resulted from complications due to these injuries, Tobiassen said.
But defense attorney Ron Kurpiers said the medical evidence clears Brown.
He said a physicist from the University of Florida will testify that it was not possible for an adult to cause such injuries to a 22-pound child by shaking.
Kurpiers also said the boy had several medical problems before his life-altering injuries. He said the child was born with cocaine in his system.
He said Lazon and his older brother were removed from their mother's care by child welfare workers, and placed with a relative who also had a cocaine problem. They were put into foster care and eventually placed with Brown and her husband, Marcus, who was not charged.
Though this is a first-degree murder case, prosecutors do not have to prove Brown intended to kill Lazon. Tobiassen said Brown committed aggravated child abuse, a felony. Under Florida law, people can be charged with first-degree murder if they commit certain felony crimes and someone dies as a result.
The trial resumes today.