OGDEN -- The defense has finally been given permission to hire a medical expert to determine if the fatal injuries suffered by Jewell Hendricks' infant son could have been accidental.
Hendricks, 27, is charged with murder in the Jan. 24, 2010, death of her 2-month-old son, Robert. She also is charged with child abuse as the result of bruising found on Robert's twin brother, Daniel, the day Robert died in the family apartment in the 400 block of 27th Street.
Hendricks' public defender, Ryan Bushell, told 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda last week that negotiations had been finalized with county officials to pay for a medical expert to examine the evidence against his client.
The defense theory, Bushell said in an interview, is to determine if prior cranial injuries from two accidents when the child fell could have led to his death "rather than what Jewell told investigators."
Hospital officials said that the child suffered a skull fracture, a broken collarbone, bleeding of the eye and bruising to the head and arms.
Police say Hendricks confessed she murdered her son by holding a sleeping bag over his face and bear-hugging him until he stopped crying.
Hendricks' mental health will be an issue, with Bushell concerned that Hendricks mistakenly believes she caused the boy's death.
Hendricks has been found competent in psychological exams to stand trial.
In her damning statements to police, Hendricks said she was overwhelmed by taking care of twins and decided life would be better for the survivor among the pair when she suffocated the other.
But Bushell feels the medical evidence does not support death by suffocation.
Trial has been postponed twice since December, when Bushell first requested funding for a medical expert to examine the evidence against his client, typically costing a minimum of $5,000.
Weber County funds the public defenders, which requires review of their expenditures by the county attorney's office, also the prosecutors in the case.
Having the opposition hold sway over a defense attorney's trial resources can create a legal tension.
To solve that conflict of interest, the civil lawyers in the county attorney's office, not the prosecutors assigned the case, take up those debates.
The county attorney's office initially balked at Bushell's request for a forensic pathologist from Minnesota, saying the cost was more than the county typically pays for its own experts in cases.
Thursday Bushell said officials have agreed to his using the services of a pediatric neurosurgeon from Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
Hendricks' other child has been in Division of Child and Family Services custody, although her husband has never been under suspicion in the case.
A July 14 status conference was set in the case for likely scheduling of a new trial date.
Hendricks has been held in the Weber County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail since her arrest 17 months ago.