John Randall Wyatt was tried and convicted of murder in
connection with the death of 2-year-old Andrea
Marginean. Wyatt appeals, claiming that the evidence
was insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the trial
court erred by allowing the State's medical expert to
offer opinion testimony concerning Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Finding no error, we affirm.
Wyatt first alleges that the evidence presented at trial was
insufficient to support his conviction. Viewed in the light
most favorable to the jury's verdict, the evidence
adduced at trial established as follows. In April 2009, Wyatt
was in a relationship with Nicoleta Cosma, formerly Nicoleta
Marginean. Nicoleta lived in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County,
Georgia with her three children: 7-year-old Anthony,
5-year-old Daniel, and 2-year-old Andrea. Periodically, Wyatt
would stay at the house and watch the children while Nicoleta
went to work.
April 11, 2009, Nicoleta left Wyatt at home with her children
while she went to work. When she returned home, Nicoleta
found 2-year-old Andrea lying on the corner of her
mother's bed. When Nicoleta lifted Andrea from the bed,
the child had no control of her head, her breathing sounding
a little congested, and she was unresponsive to her
mother's voice. Nicoleta noticed a new, circular bruise
on the child's cheek, as well as bruising and a large red
spot on the child's back. Wyatt made varying statements
concerning how Andrea sustained her injuries, including that
the child: was sick; had slipped in the bathroom and hit her
nose, affecting her breathing; and, that while attempting to
change the child's diaper in the bathroom, he turned to
wash his hands at which time she "freaked out"
because she does not like water or bathing and began banging
her head on the toilet.
took Andrea, who was stiffening and unresponsive, to Gwinnett
Medical Center. Doctors found bruises on Andrea's face,
chin, forehead, groin area, right arm, and multiple bruises
on her lower extremities. After a CT scan revealed severe
brain injuries, the child was taken to Scottish Rite
Children's Hospital for immediate surgical intervention.
Despite this, the child died of severe brain injuries on
April 14, 2009.
their investigation into Andrea's death, law enforcement
spoke with Nicoleta's sons Anthony and Daniel. The boys
told law enforcement that, on the day of the incident, they
both heard their sister in the bathroom crying and screaming
for their mother. Anthony recalled hearing running water
which sounded like water filling the bathtub. He told
officers that Wyatt yelled at his sister, after which he
heard a loud banging on the bathtub. Anthony later
demonstrated this banging sound to another witness by
pounding his hand on a nearby table. He also produced $20 to
that same witness, explaining that he received the money from
also spoke to law enforcement and initially denied any
responsibility for Andrea's injuries. He denied having
any physical contact with the child, stating that she began
banging her head against the toilet while having a tantrum on
the bathroom floor. Eventually though, he admitted to
striking Andrea on the head with an open hand, but indicated
that he did not strike her hard enough to cause the severity
of her head trauma.
autopsy revealed major swelling, two subarachnoid hemorrhages
and bruising of the child's brain, as well as severe
retinal hemorrhaging of the child's right eye. The
medical examiner concluded that these injuries, in
conjunction with the child's symptoms of lethargy, lack
of responsiveness and abnormal breathing, indicated that some
kind of rotational force consistent with a shaking component
caused the child's injuries and subsequent death. The
State presented additional medical experts who provided their
opinions regarding the severity of the child's traumatic
brain injuries and Shaken Baby Syndrome.
on the foregoing, the record shows that there was sufficient
evidence to enable a rational trier of fact to conclude
beyond a reasonable doubt that Wyatt was guilty of the crime
for which he was convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).
trial, the State qualified Dr. Andrew Reisner, the
neurosurgeon who operated on the victim, as an expert in the
field of pediatric neurosurgery. During direct examination,
the following transpired:
Dr. Reisner: It's significant trauma, and I can't
define it but it's significant trauma. This is not just a
slap on the backside or a trip on the floor or a fall on the
playground, we see that thousands of times, this is
The State: Okay. Traffic accidents, do you see them in that
type of situation?
Dr. Reisner: Oh yes.
The State: Falls from high places, you said it's a