Sunday 22 April 2018

How Aisling Brady McCarthy endured her worst nightmare for three years

Aisling Brady McCarthy, right, is escorted from court following her status hearing at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Mass.
Aisling Brady McCarthy, right, is escorted from court following her status hearing at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Mass.
Aisling Brady McCarthy on her wedding day
Aisling McCarthy Brady pictured in a police photo issued in 2013
The former nanny leaving court in Massachusetts after her acquittal this week

Orlaith Farrell

She described it as her "worst nightmare", and for Aisling Brady McCarthy, it went on for the best part of three years.

The Irish nanny was arrested in Boston on January 21 ,2013, a week after the death of baby Rehma Sabir, the little girl she had been caring for.

The one-year-old child had been found unconscious in her cot at home in the Boston suburb of Cambridge and later died. Prosecutors alleged that the Cavan woman had violently shaken the baby, leading to a fatal head trauma that caused her death, a charge she denied.

Aisling had been living in the US since 2002 and photographs of the nanny showed a happy woman in her thirties - laughing with her husband on her wedding day or smiling broadly with a young child on her lap.

But then the 34-year-old was charged with assault and battery on a child. During the first of what would be many court appearances, she was hidden behind a wall in the dock of Cambridge District Court.

Her presence was only detectable by the clink of handcuffs and the two prison guards that flanked her.

Bail was set at $500,000 because she had been in the US illegally since her arrival and was deemed a flight risk by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

She was assigned to Framingham women's prison in Massachusetts. By April 2013, when the charges against her were upgraded to murder, Ms Brady McCarthy had spent four months in a jail cell.

The woman who emerged to tearfully plead not guilty to murder at Middlesex Superior Court, was a shadow of the brightly dressed newly-wed whose pictures we had seen. Her hair was pulled back tightly, her face puffy and pale, and she was visibly distraught, weeping in to her hands.

Her lawyer, Melinda Thompson, continued to vehemently deny the Irish woman's connection to what she described as an unspeakable tragedy.

Members of her family sat quietly at each hearing, leaving court quickly and refusing to talk to reporters. When Ms Brady McCarthy appeared in Middlesex Superior Court in September of that year, her demeanour had deteriorated further.

Blotchy and distraught, dressed in an oversized orange jumper, she sobbed as her legal team argued for the charges to be dismissed; shaking her head as details of the case presented to the grand jury were read out.

As both sides gathered evidence throughout 2013, Ms Brady McCarthy's team repeated her innocence, insisting there had been a rush to prosecute, and that the allegation of shaken baby syndrome was unfounded.

In February 2014, the Cavan woman ,who was still being told her trial would take place in April, appeared in court once again.

This time it was to hear her defence team tell Judge Maureen Hogan that the medical evidence would prove that baby Sabir suffered bone fractures weeks before her death, when she wasn't in the nanny's care.

The case stalled and despite a series of delays, in October of 2014 she was refused bail once again due to her immigration status.

After a staggering 27 months behind bars, the Lavey native was granted bail and walked out the back door of Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn in May after the Massachusetts medical examiner decided to review all the medical evidence.

Ms Brady McCarthy started to cry and waved at her sister when she heard the decision, as supporters in the court room hugged and became teary.

The nightmare was coming to an end, but not before three more months saddled with a monitoring bracelet and confined to her home.

But this week she wept "tears of joy" when told that the Middlesex District Attorney was dropping the charges against her.

Reversed The medical examiner had reversed an earlier decision that the baby's cause of death was homicide.

The toddler may have had Von Willebrand disease, which could have made her prone to easy bleeding, Katherine Lindstrom ruled.

Ms Brady McCarthy, who is now 37, has not received an apology for being wrongly jailed but Ms Thompson, who represented her, told a press conference that she was hopeful her client could be compensated for what she had suffered.

Following an emotional return to Ireland this week, her focus in the short-term will surely be recovery.

But in the long-term it's not clear if Aisling Brady McCarthy will get any compensation for her erroneous incarceration.

Irish Independent

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