Comparison Made between Child's Accident and Natasha Richardson's Skiing Fatality: Excerpt from Sunday's Editorial

By Dick Farrell, Times-Reporter
Posted 3/22/2009

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Actor Natasha Richardson’s death last week has put head injuries into the national spotlight and caused me to reflect on the Marsha Mills case.

The medical terminology used to describe Richardson’s death was this: “an epidural hematoma caused by blunt-impact trauma to the head.” Richardson apparently suffered what was described as a minor fall on her head while skiing. She was conscious after the fall and even declined treatment initially.

Shortly after that news broke, another case was spotlighted by a Cleveland TV station that told the story of a boy who hit his head on cement while skateboarding. He complained of a headache, but nothing else. His mother took him to the hospital, where doctors learned that the boy needed immediate brain surgery to survive.

Two years ago this summer, a Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court jury convicted Mills of Dover for causing the death of a 2-year-old she was babysitting. Mills, whose reputation was impeccable and whose love of children was a foregone conclusion, told police the boy fell down steps and hit his head.

And initially that’s what police believed.

An Akron Children’s Hospital doctor, who has faced malpractice lawsuits from parents who say they were wrongly accused of child abuse, didn’t believe her story and testified at her trial that she abused the boy.

Moreover, the doctor, R. Daryl Steiner, a state witness, did agree under oath that potentially fatal retinal hemorrhages and subdural hematomas are seen in short falls but believed the boy died at the hands of abuse. The defense, obviously, claims otherwise. (There is a difference between epidural and subdural hematomas, although both are potentially fatal and can be caused by head trauma.)

The Fifth District Court of Appeals, which heard lawyers’ argue facts in the case last summer, has put the Mills case on its docket for another hearing on April 30.

Surely the wheels of justice turn slowly for Mills, who has been in prison for nearly two years, and for those who believe she’s innocent. Natasha Richardson’s death, I’m sure, has only bolstered their will to fight on.

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(This Section appears approximately one-third of the way down in the Editorial titled "Many people are jealous of what others earn" from Sunday's Times-Reporter)