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Jury deliberations to resume today in Gillette child abuse case

Campbell County Courthouse (County17.com)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — The outcome of the trial for a Gillette man accused of violently abusing his infant son is in the hands of the jury, who stepped out late Monday afternoon to consider the case.

Jury deliberations to decide the fate of Tyler Bryan Martinson, 29 — who stands accused of multiple counts of felony aggravated child abuse for, prosecutors believe, breaking many of his infant son’s bones in December 2020 and January 2021 — were paused Monday evening around 6:30 p.m. The jury is to resume deliberations at 8:30 a.m. today, according to the Campbell County District Court Clerk’s Office.

The jury stepped out following closing arguments from both Defense Attorney Cassie Craven, representing Martinson, and Deputy County and Prosecuting Attorney Greg Steward, representing the State of Wyoming.

Steward took several moments in his argument to point out instances where he believes the state has satisfied multiple elements of its burden of proof, such as the location of the offenses, the nature of them, a range of dates they could have occurred, whether they resulted in severe injury and whether those injuries were inflicted by someone charged with caring for a child. All of these, Steward said, the state had provided evidence for, adding that the proof pointed to a guilty verdict.

He pointed out the words of the defendant in his interviews with law enforcement, specifically the times he said he got angry with the baby, that he had a lot going on, and that he “just lost it.”

Craven reiterated what she said in her opening statement last week: that no crime had been committed and that a rare bone disease, recently revealed to be hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), is responsible for the baby’s broken bones.

She said the “government” was doing everything it could to convince the jury that Martinson, who she characterized as a loving father, had squeezed his son to the point of breaking the baby’s ribs and held the child’s legs to the point that he broke them.

Craven also asserted the government had not done its job properly and had “tunnel vision” that prevented it from asking the right questions and carrying out a real investigation that included opinions from real medical professionals.

“You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole,” Craven told the jury while pointing at the prosecution table and stating she had done the state’s job for them.

She said she carried out her own investigation that sought out testimony from endocrinologist Dr. Michael Holick, a self-proclaimed expert on diagnosing EDS in children under 5 years old and an individual with a history of testifying on behalf of defendants in child abuse cases, according to investigations published by ProPublica and the New Yorker.

Holick testified on Monday that he had personally reviewed the case and examined the baby, his mother Keasha Bullinger, and his grandmother Gwyn Martinson once he was notified of the case by the defense.

An EDS diagnosis, Holick said, is based on a multitude of factors, such as if the patient has loose joints that click, doughy skin that bruises easily, and a hyperflexible spine that allows them to place their hands on the floor with minimal bending of the legs.

Holick was reportedly able to diagnose both Bullinger and her son, stating there was strong certainty they had EDS based on the presence of the aforementioned indicators. The condition could result in easily fractured bones from normal activities such as changing a baby’s diaper, Holick said, though he confirmed, like other medical professionals in the case, that bones do not break on their own.

Holick’s work, however, has been mired in controversy that ultimately led to Boston University Medical Center reportedly banning him from evaluating or treating patients under the age of 13, and his rights as a doctor being restricted by the Massachusetts medical board, per ProPublica.

The measures were taken after the story exposed his tendency to diagnose EDS in children suspected of being victims of child abuse nearly 100% of the time, the article stated.

During his testimony May 9, Holick said the rate at which he diagnoses EDS in his patients is explained by the fact that he does not examine patients if he doesn’t believe it is likely they have the disease. He also said his controversial medical career has prevented him from gaining employment at other Boston region medical institutions.

Pediatricians currently maintain that hypermobile EDS cannot be diagnosed in children younger than 5, per ProPublica.

Jurors also heard testimony from Dr. Susan Gootnick, a California radiologist who advertises herself as an expert witness able to provide a report and an affidavit of medical negligence based on X-rays, according to her website.

Gootnick did not hesitate to state that Martinson’s son had multiple indicators for Rickets, a vitamin D disorder that can result in poor bone calcification, and said the baby was not a victim of non-accidental trauma.

Gootnick also said Bullinger was overweight during her pregnancy, which is a sign that the mother had a vitamin D deficiency.

In the prosecution’s rebuttal, however, Steward said the defense sought the opinion of two doctors, one of whom, Gootnick, produced a report that was riddled with grammatical errors and was based on an eight-hour review of the x-rays without a physical examination of the baby.

Additionally, Steward said, the state had sought the opinion of an entire medical team, composed of doctors and medical professionals alike that collaborated to reach their diagnosis of child abuse, as opposed to seeking an opinion from a single doctor working in isolation.

Steward ended his argument by pointing at the defendant’s table, imploring the members of the jury to render the defendant guilty.

“Bones bend, they break,” he said. “And that 3-month-old baby had his bones broken at the hands of this man.”

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