Is Shaking a Baby Without Intention to Harm Him Considered a Crime (Causing Brain Injuries) ?

In People v. Renteria, 232 Ill. App. 3d 409, 416-17, 173 Ill. Dec. 740, 597 N.E.2d 714 (1992), following a bench trial, defendant was convicted of aggravated battery of his 2 1/2 month-old baby. Defendant admitted that he shook the baby to revive him after he fell off the bed and onto the floor, but denied that he intended to hurt him or acted with knowledge that his conduct created a strong probability of great bodily harm. The medical testimony at trial, however, contradicted defendant's testimony. Both the State's and defendant's physicians testified that the baby sustained massive brain injuries and retinal hemorrhaging which indicated shaken baby syndrome. The State's physician testified that "significant shaking" caused the child's injuries and that the child additionally suffered a skull fracture from a contact injury. Defendant's physician disagreed that the child sustained a skull fracture, but did not contest the existence of other massive internal injuries within the baby's head. Affirming defendant's conviction, the appellate court determined that the medical testimony and the nature of the baby's injuries supported the trier of fact's conclusion that defendant either intended to harm the child or knew that his actions would cause the infant to sustain great bodily injury. Renteria, 232 Ill. App. 3d at 417-18. With regard to defendant's testimony that he did not intend to harm his child, the court reasoned that this testimony created a conflict in the evidence and it was the role of the fact finder to resolve this conflict. Renteria, 232 Ill. App. 3d at 416.