Schenectady County

Shaken baby trial nears end

A Schenectady County prosecutor urged a jury in closing arguments Monday to convict a woman of shatt
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A Schenectady County prosecutor urged a jury in closing arguments Monday to convict a woman of shattering the skull of a 2-year-old girl a year ago, saying the child “is screaming to you through her body.”

Prosecutor Andra Ackerman said the trial is “about justice for Riley Gilbert,” who suffered massive brain damage March 27, 2007.

Rebecca Polomaine faces three felony charges, including a top count of first-degree assault. She is accused of causing permanent brain damage to Riley Gilbert by striking her head against a hard surface or shaking her violently.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations today. Polomaine could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted on the top charge.

Ackerman called Polomaine a “closet creature,” who took Riley Gilbert away from her family. “I expect you to find her guilty because she is guilty,” she said.

Polomaine allegedly injured the child while babysitting at the woman’s home at 465 Alexander St. Doctors had to remove some of the child’s brain after the incident, leaving her severely developmentally disabled, according to trial testimony.

Ackerman said the amount of force required to cause the injury is akin to dropping a child from a second- or third-story window.

Defense attorney Joseph Litz said the prosecution’s case is riddled with discrepancies and that “incredible errors” committed by Schenectady police and medical personnel at Albany Medical Center, where the child was treated for her injuries, resulted in his client’s being falsely accused.

“It’s all purely circumstantial. There is no direct proof in this case,” Litz said. He said the evidence failed to show when or how the fracture occurred and suggested that Polomaine’s then 4-year-old child might be responsible for Riley’s injury.

“If a 4-year-old ran full force and struck a 2-year-old, could it cause the type of injury we have before us?” Litz asked. “Yes,” he replied.

Ackerman used a display chart with five puzzle pieces attached to show the jury that Polomaine alone was responsible for Gilbert’s injuries. She said the child did not cause the injuries to herself, that Polomaine was the only adult in the house during the incident, that the child’s injuries were not tied to natural causes, that she did not have the injuries prior to arriving at Polomaine’s house that day and that a 4-year-old could not have caused Riley’s massive brain damage.

When Ackerman removed the final piece of the puzzle, only a picture of Polomaine remained for the jury to see. During her summation, Polomaine cried several times, wiping away tears.

“No one else could have caused these injuries,” Ackerman said. She said Polomaine showed a callous disregard for Riley’s safety by taking 5 1⁄2 minutes to call 911 for help.

Ackerman said Polomaine first called Riley’s mother, who told Polomaine to call 911. “Riley is dying on her couch and she is waiting to call 911,” Ackerman said.

In the 911 call, played in court, Polomaine spoke with the dispatcher in a calm, detached voice, never indicating the child was having seizures and was near death, only that she had vomited on herself and was unconscious, Ackerman said.

The trial is before acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Giardino.

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