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State aid to help fund 'shaken baby' camera

Niagara County has received $50,000 in state funding, which it is passing along to Women and Children's Hospital, to help pay for the hospital's retinal camera digital imaging system that can be used to gather evidence in criminal cases involving injuries caused by shaking infants.

District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III said the outcome of a 2004 trial over the death of a 5-month-old boy might have been different if the camera had been available.

Michael R. Clark Jr. of Wheatfield died in the hospital in 2002, with prosecutors blaming head injuries from being shaken. Defense attorneys lined up expert witnesses to deny the existence of "shaken baby syndrome" and to blame the child's death on a heart defect.

The father, Michael R. Clark Sr., now 27, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in the midst of a trial for second-degree murder. He was sentenced to a maximum of four years in prison; he would have faced 25 years to life if convicted of murder. Clark is eligible for parole in December.

The "retcam," which is available to all Western New York police agencies, provides "objective evidence rather than subjective opinion," Murphy said, because the retinas show a different pattern if a baby has been shaken.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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