A Merced man accused of shaking his 7-month-old baby to death last year won't face new criminal charges, Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II said Tuesday.
Michael Burell, 23, was arrested in September on suspicion of causing fatal injuries to his son, Jacob.
The criminal case was launched after Children's Hospital Central California doctors who examined the child concluded the injuries were severe and could have been the result of shaken baby syndrome.
On the flip side, Burell claimed his son suffered a head injury when he fell onto a hard plastic toy in the living room of the apartment where he lived.
Morse said a pathologist and a pediatrician, who were consulted in the investigation, were unable to rule out the possibility that such a fall, as Burell described, could have resulted in the brain injury that led to Jacob's death. "In speaking with the doctors in Jacob's case, they are unable to make a conclusive determination of the cause of his death," Morse said in a statement.
"As a result, we cannot meet our ethical obligation as prosecutors, which requires we file a case only if we believe we have a reasonable likelihood of obtaining a conviction."
Burell's attorney, Chief Deputy Public Defender Vincent Andrade, applauded Morse's decision, saying the announcement will help clear his client's name, and remove the stigma associated with the case. Andrade described his client as a loving father. "I think that it's one more step in vindicating Mr. Burell," Andrade said.
Burell was released from jail in November after the case against him was dismissed, because a pathologist hadn't completed the child's autopsy, and prosecutors were up against a 60-day deadline to present the evidence against Burell to a judge.
Burell was arrested Sept. 9 after Merced police arrived at his East Santa Fe Avenue apartment and found the baby unresponsive. Jacob was declared brain dead a few days later and taken off life support.
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