Man freed amid questions raised over autopsy
Posted on Thu, Nov. 21, 2002
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A man sent to prison for the death of his 8-week-old son has been freed because of questions about a medical examiner's report.
John W. Peel, then 18, told investigators his son died in 1998 when he fell off a bed, but the former local medical examiner, Joan Wood, ruled the death a homicide after saying she found evidence of shaken-baby syndrome.
Peel was charged with first-degree murder and later sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading to a lesser manslaughter charge.
---Wood, who is now a private consultant, said she stands by her homicide finding.
The Peel case is the latest controversy for Wood since her reversal on the cause of death of a Church of Scientology member led prosecutors to drop charges against the church. That eventually led to Wood's forced retirement in 2000.
---McCabe asked Wood's successor, Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin, to re-examine the Peel autopsy after mistakes by Wood's office led to the dismissal of charges in another shaken baby case in April.
Thogmartin later brought in Dr. Stephen Nelson, Polk County's medical examiner, to review the case. Neither found evidence of hemorrhaging in the child's eyes, on which Wood based her finding of shaken-baby syndrome.
Wood insists she made the correct call.
"There are disagreements in forensic medicine," Wood said. "We're each allowed our own opinion. But I'm telling you that that child was murdered. No mistake. The baby was shaken to death."
McCabe said a review of other recent shaken baby cases found no problems.