Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Birth injuries called not serious

They're cited in defense at dad's abuse trial

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — After Draven Howard was born in an urgent Caesarean section, he was blue and let out a weak cry.

        The Hamilton baby had marks on his head and bleeding under his scalp after forceps and a vacuum extractor were used in failed attempts to deliver him vaginally.

        None of those indicators was particularly alarming, Dr. Colleen Swayze said, because babies are often blue and bruised after birth.

        Dr. Swayze's videotaped testimony was presented Tuesday, the second day in a controversial child-abuse trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

        James Neil Howard, 28, of Hamilton, is accused of two felony child-endangering counts involving his son, Draven. Now 21 months old, Draven was diagnosed when he was 2 1/2 months old with abusive head trauma: bleeding inside his head and eyes. The child's ability to see and learn remains uncertain, and he takes anti-seizure medication.

        The defense is attributing the child's problems to his difficult birth, but prosecutors say abuse is the only logical explanation.

        Under questioning by Steve Tolbert, an assistant prosecutor, Dr. Swayze said the child appeared to be “normal” and was doing well after his birth at Mercy Hospital Fairfield in January 2000.

        But Dr. Swayze, under questioning by Mr. Howard's lawyer, Michael Shanks, said she couldn't say whether the child could have had bleeding inside his head that went undetected.

        Draven's family doctor, James Simcoe of Fairfield, testified he didn't think the birth-related marks on Draven's head were of any medical significance.

        The trial continues today, and is expected to last at least through Monday. If convicted, Mr. Howard faces up to 16 years in prison.


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