9 Nov 2017

Toddler's death: Crown seeks to discredit defence witness

6:03 pm on 9 November 2017

The crown has sought to discredit the evidence of a defence witness in the murder trial of Shayal Upashna Sami.

Shayal Upashna Sami at the High Court in Christchurch.

Shayal Upashna Sami at the High Court in Christchurch. Photo: Pool / Fairfax NZ

Ms Sami is accused of inflicting critical injuries to one-year-old Aaliyah Ashlyn Chand while babysitting her in 2015.

In summing up the crown's case today at the High Court in Christchurch, Deirdre Elsmore said the injuries, including two skull fractures, were caused by Ms Sami and not by a fall or force feeding as claimed by defence witness Terence Donald.

"He seemed to see it as his job to suggest remote possibilities as some sort of challenge to police and experts to keep an open mind to possibilities other than inflicted injury.

"But you might think that when those provocative, speculative alternatives were put to the test ... in cross examination, they did not withstand the scrutiny."

She said the crown's experts showed it was extremely rare for children to die as a result of a fall.

Ms Sami - who was 18-years-old and five months pregnant at the time - had said the baby was significantly injured when she fell off a couch.

In summing up for the defence, Jonathan Eaton QC said the Crown's case was culturally insensitive.

He said it was offensive for the Crown to say his client was under pressure at the time because she was in an arranged marriage and was socially isolated.

Ms Sami had no record of violence against children and was experienced in looking after them, Mr Eaton said.

Mr Eaton said the child, who had only just learned how to pull herself up, was standing on the sofa when she fell 1.2 metres on to the floor.

He said the evidence showed a fall from this height was the equivalent to running in to something at a speed of 20km/h.

"You run 20-kilometres an hour in to a concrete lamp post with carpet wrapped around it, [are] you going to cause yourself serious injury, I bet you wouldn't take the chance. It's significant.

"The reason Dr [Claire ] Davies' evidence was important was because I think we all were surprised to learn what forces are generated in these short falls, you just would not expect that, you would not know about it."

The multiple bruises to the child's face were the result of a bleeding disorder that caused her to bruise easily, he said.

He argued they were probably caused by medical staff at the hospital who touched her face a number of times.

"Dr [Martin] Sage only noticed the bruise in the right ear post-mortem, didn't refer in his notes to one under the neck, didn't refer to one on the left ear. It's really weird. You know Dr [Cindy] Christian's saying ears and neck tell me child abuse, Sage post-mortem only saw one of those. It just shows you how dangerous it is to be relying on experts."

The judge will sum up the case on Friday before the jury retires to consider its verdict.

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