Joshua James Dulle of Harrison, who is charged with capital murder in the death of a six-month-old infant in February 2016, was in Baxter County Circuit Court Monday for the purpose of hearing motions filed in the case. The hearing was held in Mountain Home because of the unavailability of a courtroom in Boone County.
During the hearing, 14th District Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge announced to the court the state would be waiving the death penalty in Dulle's case because there were not a sufficient number of aggravating circumstances to sustain a death penalty finding.
According to court records, the 31-year-old Dulle was accused of causing the death of an infant, Miles Dunaway, by what is commonly known as "Shaken Baby Syndrome". In addition, the infant also had marks on his neck consistent with those caused by a ligature.
Dulle was arrested in June 2016 following a four-month investigation into the infant's death.
When questioned, Dulle told investigators he had been babysitting with the infant and two other small children in an apartment complex in Harrison.
He said the child's mother brought the infant to Dulle's apartment for his girlfriend to babysit him. The girlfriend had to leave, and Dulle was left to sit with the children.
Dulle told investigators he gave the boy a bath, wrapped him in a blanket and put the child on the floor for a nap with a bottle propped up on a blanket. He said he left the room for about five minutes, and when he returned, he found the baby unresponsive. Dulle said he could not find his cellphone to call for help and took the child to a neighbor's apartment and asked them to call 911. He told investigators as he carried the baby, the infant felt like "a big piece of cold deer meat".
Dulle said while he was looking for his cellphone, he tripped and had fallen with the baby in his arms.
The Harrison man said he panicked and shook the baby two times in an attempt to revive him. He mimicked his actions for investigators, and they said the shaking was aggressive. Dulle told investigators the baby's eyes were rolled back in his head, and he was limp and had vomited. He also said there was blood coming from the baby's mouth.
According to the State Medical Examiner's Office, the baby died of traumatic head injury and that it could be a case of "Shaken Baby Syndrome".
The child was first taken to the North Arkansas Regional Medical Center and then on to Arkansas Children's Hospital where he died about a day later.
According to physicians at Children's Hospital, the infant had severe injuries to the head. The doctors concluded the injuries were not consistent with one impact such as the fall described by Dulle to investigators.
As with all capital murder cases, a large number of motions have been filed in the case. In one motion heard Monday, the defense attacked the scientific validity of "Shaken Baby Syndrome" itself. Dulle's defense lawyers argued abuse could not be assumed by the presence of certain diagnostic factors which underlies the theory of the "Shaken Baby Syndrome," and further inquiry was needed.
The defense attorneys wrote "Shaken Baby Syndrome" was an unreliable, unproven and highly controversial hypothesis - never validated, and a theory that had largely been debunked and not generally accepted. The defense asked the court to bar any testimony related to "Shaken Baby Syndrome" at Dulle's trial.
In a letter from Chris Carter, a 14th Judicial District deputy prosecutor, the state contends "Shaken Baby Syndrome" is valid science, has been for some time and has the overwhelming support of the medical profession.
Judge Gordon Webb said he had received a mountain of paper from both sides regarding "Shaken Baby Syndrome" and confessed he had not had time to plow throw the material completely. He said, however, that from what he had seen and read, including hearing the arguments from both sides Monday, he was "leaning" toward siding with the state. He said he was ruling that no Daubert hearing was necessary. Such a hearing is held to determine the validity of evidence particular if "novel scientific evidence" is involved.
Judge Webb said he did not see "Shaken Baby Syndrome" as novel. He said, instead, it was "long accepted science" and would not be kept out of Dulle's trial. He said he would continue to read the submitted material and he was not closing his mind to the arguments of the defense. "The court may well change it's mind," Judge Webb said.
Ten days in March have been set aside to hear Dulle's case in Boone County Circuit Court.
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