Final witnesses called in Martinson’s defense say son was victim of rare bone condition, not abuse
GILLETTE, Wyo.—The outcome of a trial for a Gillette man accused of violently abusing his infant son is in the hands of the jury, who stepped out late Monday afternoon to consider the case.
Jury deliberations to decide the fate of Tyler Bryan Martinson, 29, who stands accused of multiple counts of felony aggravated child abuse for, prosecutors believe, breaking multiple bones belonging to his infant son in December 2020 and Jan. 2021, have started as of May 9.
Deliberations were paused Monday evening around 6:30 p.m., with the jury expected to resume reviewing Martinson’s case at 8:30 a.m. on May 10, according to the Campbell County District Court Clerk’s Office.
The jury stepped out following compelling closing arguments from both Defense Attorney Cassie Craven, representing Martinson, and Deputy County and Prosecuting Attorney Greg Steward, representing the State of Wyoming, Monday afternoon.
Steward took several moments in his argument to point out several instances that he believes the state has satisfied multiple elements of their burden of proof such as the location of the offenses, the nature of them, a range of dates they could have occurred, whether they resulted in severe injury, and whether those injuries were inflicted by someone charged with caring for a child.
All of which, Steward said, the state had provided evidence for and said that the proof pointed to a guilty verdict.
He pointed out the words of the defendant in his interviews with law enforcement, specifically the times he said that he got angry with the baby, that he had a lot going on, and that he “just lost it.”
Craven reiterated what she said in her opening statement last week, that no crime had been committed and that a rare bone disease, recently revealed to be hypermobile Ehlers- Danlos syndrome (EDS), is responsible for the baby’s broken bones.
She said that the “government” was doing everything they could to convince the jury that Martinson, who she characterized as a loving father, had squeezed his son to the point of breaking the baby’s ribs and held the child’s legs to the point that he broke them.
Craven also asserted that the government had not done its job properly and had “tunnel vision” that prevented them from asking the right questions and carrying out a real investigation that included opinions from real medical professionals.
“You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole,” Craven told the jury and pointed at the prosecution table while stating that she had done the state’s job for them.
She based her statement on the fact that she carried out her own “investigation” that sought out testimony from Endocrinologist Dr. Michael Holick, a self-proclaimed expert on diagnosing EDS in children under 5 years old with a history of testifying on behalf of defendants in child abuse cases, according to investigations published by ProPublica and The New Yorker.
Holick testified on Monday that he had personally reviewed the case, and examined the baby, his mother Keasha Bullinger, and his grandmother Gwyn Martinson, once he was notified of the case by the defense.
An EDS diagnosis, Holick said, is based on a multitude of factors such as if the patient has loose joints that click, doughy skin that bruises easily, and is hyperflexible in their spine allowing them to place their hands on the floor with minimal bending of the legs.
Holick reportedly was able to diagnose both Bullinger and her son, stating there was strong certainty that they had EDS based on the presence of the aforementioned indicators.
The condition could result in easily fractured bones from normal activities such as changing a baby’s diaper, Holick said, though he confirmed, like other medical professionals in the case, that bones do not break on their own.
Holick’s work, however, has been mired in controversy that ultimately led to Boston University Medical Center reportedly banning him from evaluating or treating patients under the age of 13, and his rights as a doctor being restricted by the Massachusetts medical board, per ProPublica.
The measures were taken after the story exposed his tendency to diagnose EDS in children suspected of being victims of child abuse nearly 100 percent of the time, the article stated.
During his testimony on May 9, Holick said that the rate at which he diagnoses EDS in his patients is explained by the fact that he does not examine patients if he doesn’t believe it is likely that they have the disease. He also revealed that his controversial medical career has prevented him from gaining employment at other Boston region medical institutions.
Pediatricians currently maintain that hypermobile EDS cannot be diagnosed in children younger than 5, per ProPublica.
Jurors also heard testimony from Dr. Susan Gootnick, a California radiologist who advertises herself as an expert witness able to provide a report and an affidavit of medical negligence based on x-rays, according to her website.
Gootnick did not hesitate to state that Martinson’s son had multiple indicators for Rickets, a vitamin D disorder that can result in poor bone calcification, and said that the baby was not a victim of non-accidental trauma.
Gootnick also said that Bullinger was overweight during her pregnancy which is a sign that the mother had a vitamin D deficiency.
In the prosecution’s rebuttal, however, Steward was quick to point out that the defense sought the opinion of two doctors, one of whom, Gootnick, produced a report that was riddled with grammatical errors and was based on an 8-hour review of the x-rays without a physical examination of the baby.
Additionally, Steward said, the state had sought the opinion of an entire medical team, composed of doctors and medical professionals alike that collaborated to reach their diagnosis of child abuse, as opposed to seeking an opinion from a single doctor working in isolation.
Steward ended his argument by pointing at the defendant’s table, imploring the members of the jury to render the defendant guilty.
“Bones bend, they break,” he said. “And that 3-month-old baby had his bones broken at the hands of this man.”