‘Several developments’ led to Irish nanny’s release on bail

Differing expert views on baby’s death led judge to release McCarthy after two years in jail

Aisling Brady McCarthy, the Cavan nanny accused of fatally assaulting a baby in her care in in Cambridge near Boston in  2013, who has been released on $15,000 bail. Photograph: Josh Reynolds/Boston Globe/Pool

Aisling Brady McCarthy, the Cavan nanny accused of fatally assaulting a baby in her care in in Cambridge near Boston in 2013, who has been released on $15,000 bail. Photograph: Josh Reynolds/Boston Globe/Pool


For more than two years, Irish nanny Aisling Brady McCarthy has been in jail pending trial on a charge of murdering a baby in her care. She is accused of attacking one-year-old Rehma Sabir in the child’s home in Cambridge near Boston on January 14th, 2013. That afternoon, the baby girl was found unconscious in her cot. She died two days later.

The Irish woman applied to a Massachusetts court for release on bail three times before, most recently in October 2014 in front of Judge Maureen Hogan in the Superior Court of Middlesex County, which covers a large area west and north of Boston.

On Tuesday, at her fourth attempt, the Co Cavan woman succeeded and the same judge granted her release on $15,000 bail – down from $500,000 previously. She walked free, wearing an electronic bracelet, out of custody for the first time since her arrest on January 21st, 2013.

Ms McCarthy (36), an immigrant who has been living illegally for most of her 13 years in the US, will be confined to home. She has to wear a GPS electronic ankle bracelet monitoring her 24 hours a day, she has surrendered her passport and signed a waiver of extradition.

So what changed in eight months that led to the judge’s reversal? The prosecution had previously told the judge that if the defendant was released from state custody, immigration officials working for the US government would take her into federal custody and would automatically deport her due to her illegal status.

US Immigration Customs and Enforcement said on Tuesday that if she was released with an electronic monitoring bracelet, she would still be considered in state custody and so they would not deport her.

More significantly for Ms McCarthy, the judge found that since she was indicted on the murder charge in April 2013, there had been “several developments which affect the commonwealth’s case”.

The Massachusetts chief medical examiner is reviewing all the evidence in the case after receiving various expert opinions from the defence last month – a “rare and significant occurrence”, the judge said.

The review will take up to 30 days and both sides are checking with witnesses about their availability to testify at a trial, which has already been delayed a number of times, possibly starting in July.

Changing medical opinions were a factor in the judge’s rethink. Ms McCarthy’s defence team has over the past year questioned the reliability of so-called shaken baby syndrome or abuse head trauma.

Defence lawyer Melinda Thompson said on Tuesday that a court was told at the time of Ms McCarthy’s arrest that Dr Alice Newton of Boston Children’s Hospital diagnosed that “the child was killed with the force of a motor vehicle accident” and had been forced down on her buttocks by Ms McCarthy, causing vertebrae fractures. “Things have changed significantly since then,” she told the court.

A year later, Dr Andrew Rosenberg, a medical expert for the prosecution, found that fractures to the child’s vertebrae and long bones occurred three to seven weeks, most likely three to four weeks, before her death – a period when she was not in Ms McCarthy’s care and was travelling with her family in Toronto, Dubai and Pakistan.

After being sent defence expert medical opinions, Dr Rosenberg change his view in a report seen by the judge on Tuesday, saying that the fractures probably occurred five to six weeks before death.

In her decision, Judge Hogan referred to these findings by Dr Rosenberg and another by unnamed prosecution expert that fractures initially claimed to have occurred on the same date as the head injuries that ultimately caused the child’s death had occurred weeks earlier.

The next pre-trial hearing in this long-running case is on May 19th.