Nanny on trial for baby's death

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The Independent Online
A BRITISH nanny accused of shaking a toddler to death in the United States had one charge against her withdrawn at the start of a trial yesterday, with echoes of the Louise Woodward case.

Manjit Kaur Basuta, 43, from the West Midlands, is still charged with fatal child abuse in connection with the death last March of 13-month- old Oliver Smith at a day care centre that she ran at her home in Carmel, California.

Ms Basuta, who moved to the US 10 years ago with her husband, is alleged to have killed Oliver by shaking him when he disobeyed her command to stop watching television so that she could change his nappy.

Jury selection for her trial in the San Diego County Superior Court began on Monday and opening statements are expected early next week.

Dan Goldstein, the San Diego County Deputy District attorney, said yesterday that his office had dismissed one count of second-degree murder against Ms Basuta, who has pleaded not-guilty to all charges. The child abuse charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Oliver was taken to hospital on 17 March and died a day later. An autopsy revealed that he had a blood clot beneath his skull and massive swelling of the brain because of bleeding.

Ms Basuta and a housekeeper initially told the authorities Oliver hit his head on a patio when another child pushed him. The housekeeper later said she had lied because Ms Basuta threatened her with deportation, according to grand jury transcripts.

Ms Basuta is free on pounds 500,000 bail raised by 17 of her supporters in the Sikh religious community in San Diego.

As in the Louise Woodward case in Boston, Ms Basuta's defence lawyers plan to claim that Oliver might have died because of an earlier injury.