Baby's Murder Sparks Legal Battle Between County, UNYTS

September 27, 2013 Updated May 6, 2010 at 5:17 PM EDT

By Laura Gray

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September 27, 2013 Updated May 6, 2010 at 5:17 PM EDT


BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -- UNYTS wanted to donate the organs to several sick children. The medical examiner's office needed the organs to help prosecute a murder. Yesterday, the case was brought before a judge.

A 13 month old baby was pronounced brain dead at Women and Children's Hospital Monday. The parents agreed to donate a heart, liver, and two kidneys to Upstate New York Transplant Services. The baby was placed on a ventilator to keep his organs going. "It's difficult to get organs for infants. So when an infant comes up that's a match, we very much wanted this to proceed." Sue Sullivan, Senior Vice President of UNYTS says.

She claims that it was obvious that the child had a severe head injury. The medical examiner wanted to do an autopsy to determine the exact cause of the death. An autopsy can destroy the organs, making donation impossible. Sullivan told a judge that the medical examiner could still get the evidence they need without an autopsy, while UNYTS harvested the baby's organs for donation. "They could have taken pictures, they could have taken videotape,they could have taken biopsy samples." Sullivan says.

The medical examiner's office disagreed. Dr. Anthony Billittier claims the harvesting of organs can sometimes cloud an investigation. "The ribs may have been broken in the process of harvesting the heart (for example). So the forensic pathologist won't know if the ribs are broken from child abuse or from the harvesting process."

Ultimately, a judge agreed with Erie County. The baby was taken off the ventilator, and the medical examiner proceeded with an autopsy. District Attorney Frank Sedita says the autopsy is key to moving forward with prosecuting this case as a homicide. "It gives you so much information, and so much evidence that the prosecution needs to make a case against a baby killer."

The case is still under investigation. There are no suspects or arrests yet. Police are not revealing any information about the parents or the baby. The Department of Health and UNYTS will meet soon to talk about ways to work together in the future. However, both sides say conflict is sometimes inevitable in cases like this.