Preliminary hearing begins for accused mother

Lawton_The preliminary hearing for the second-degree murder case of Julie Burt Gibbons began today.  Gibbons sobbed as the doctor testified about her baby's tragic death.  The Lawton woman stands accused of shaking her baby to death, just three days after Christmas, 2007.

The state called a handful of witnesses, including the neurosurgeon responsible for treating the baby once he was brought to the hospital.  Court records document that Gibbons was the only person home at the time her 2 ½ month old baby sustained his injuries.  Gibbons claims the child fell off the bed, however the state contends she shook him to death.

The accused intently listened to testimony, many times bursting into tears.  She cried as the neurosurgeon described the baby's injuries: brain hemorrhaging, a bruised eye, and retinal damage.  The doctor explained that this manner of injury could only be inflicted had the child been shaken extremely hard.

According to the doctor, a baby's head has no space between the skull and the brain itself, since the skull is continually growing.  He said, because of the tight fit, it takes even more force to cause the type of trauma that the infant sustained - something he maintains could not have been the result of a fall.

In earlier interviews, Gibbons told authorities the baby fell from the bed.  She said she did not actually see the fall because she was cleaning spilled cereal from the floor.  Defense Attorney John Zelbst pointed out Gibbons' prior testimony.  He maintained that it could have actually been Gibbons' two-year-old son that caused the infant harm.  He asked if it wasn't possible that her oldest son picked up the baby from the top of the bed, and dropped him to the floor.  The doctor agreed to the possibility, but asserted that it was highly unlikely.

Zelbst added that there has always been a debate about Shaken Baby Syndrome.  He argued that in order to shake a child with enormous force, the baby would have to be held around its chest while vigorously shaken.  Zelbst indicated that in studies, the force around the ribcage would be so great, that many times ribs were broken or bruising occurred.  In the case of Gibbons' son, the baby had no sign of bruised, or broken ribs.

Testimony will continue through Tuesday, when the state and defense will rest.  Gibbons remains in jail on a $500,000 bond.

Count on 7News to keep you updated as the case continues.