LIMA — Cheyenne Hooper emphatically denied from the witness stand on Thursday that she assaulted, shook or threw her daughter or struck the infant’s head on any surface on a March day more than two years ago.
Hooper, charged with felonious assault and endangering children for allegedly inflicting the injuries suffered by Lyla Stratton, her 7-month-old daughter in the family home in Lima, was the final witness in her jury trial that started Monday in Allen County Common Pleas Court.
Hooper repeated her earlier statements that her daughter was injured when she fell from a bed onto the floor on March 13, 2019. Closing arguments will be held Friday morning and jurors will then begin their deliberations.
The day teetered on the brink of a mistrial Thursday morning when a defense witness strayed from his prepared report and offered an opinion which left prosecutors dumbfounded and the presiding judge miffed.
Dr. Daniel Adler, a pediatric neurologist with practices in New York and New Jersey, testified regarding his review of medical reports from Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, where the infant was initially taken on March 13, 2019, and from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, where the girl was transferred for additional treatment.
Adler, who was paid by the defense team to offer his testimony, said it was his opinion that Lyla Stratton merely “held her breath and passed out” at the family’s Cortlandt Avenue residence and was “significantly better” upon her arrival at the Lima hospital.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Thines requested a mistrial after Adler’s remarks varied from a report he had authored.
“The state has seemingly been ambushed from Day 1 of this trial,” Thines said. “The jury has now heard testimony that was not in Dr. Adler’s report and the defense is unable to un-ring that bell. We request a mistrial.”
Defense Attorney Matt Mitchell called Adler’s lapse “a harmless event” and took exception to the perceived “character assassination” by prosecutors.
Judge Terri Kohlrieser ruled against the mistrial but did offer a stern warning to defense attorneys. “You are on notice. One more step outside the rules of criminal procedure will certainly result in a mistrial,” the judge said.
Adler disputed the findings of Dr. Catherine Huber, a child abuse pediatrician at Children’s Hospital, during his testimony. Huber testified on Tuesday that the infant experienced bleeding on the brain, a brain shift, injuries to the neck area and retinal hemorrhages “that were not consistent with injuries from a simple fall.”
“I absolutely disagree with Dr. Huber,” Adler said. “Dr. Huber did not say why it is inconsistent or what her thinking was. In my opinion if you have a diagnosis you need to offer proof.”
Asked by Mitchell if he believed the child’s injuries could be accidental, Adler said that because Lyla Stratton suffers from infant torticollis, which affects her neck muscles, “I’m saying that, yes, in this child it could.”
According to earlier testimony, the infant suffered what several medical experts described as abusive head trauma on the morning of March 13, 2019, when she was in the sole care of her mother. The girl was immediately transferred via LifeFlight to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, where injuries were diagnosed that included severe bleeding of the brain, a brain shift, neck injuries and retinal hemorrhages.