A father was found guilty in Berlin because of the negligent killing of his baby. The 41-year-old computer scientist was responsible for a fatal shaking trauma, said the district court.
Despite the guilty verdict, the judges refrained from imposing a sentence. What happened three years ago in an apartment in Berlin-Lichtenberg was a “special exception”, explained the presiding judge. The father overreacted when his 26-day-old daughter was sitting in the baby seat with breathing problems. The girl died in a hospital six days later. To date, the accused has been seriously shaken.
The father had testified that he could not explain how and when the shaking trauma that was later discovered could have occurred. He had dressed the little girl for an excursion. Shortly thereafter, he noticed that she was very pale. Because she gasped, he took the child out of the baby seat and put it on his shoulder. “Then everything was limp”.
The court, unlike the public prosecutor’s office, was unable to find any shaking from excessive demands, the judgment continued. “For us, the focus is on the possibility that an injury if the father reacted excessively to the child’s breathlessness.”
The father was panicked. He didn’t want to hurt his baby. However, he objectively violated his duty of care. The long duration of the proceedings was also taken into account when deciding not to impose a penalty.
The prosecutor had requested a suspended sentence. The defense lawyer made no specific request. The verdict is not yet legally binding.
Babies in Germany keep dying because parents or caregivers shake them. (Read here how dangerous this can be for children.) Official statistics on deaths from shaking trauma are missing, but estimates by the Federal Statistical Office assume 100 to 200 deaths per year in Germany.