Doctor Accused in Shaken Baby Death Takes Stand in Own Defense

Dr. Pallavi Macharla is on trial for the death of Ridhima Dhekane who died at her Burlington apartment

The Massachusetts doctor accused of murder in the 2014 death of a 6-month-old baby took the stand Wednesday in her own defense.

During her trial at Middlesex Superior Court, Dr. Pallavi Macharla, 44, was somber as she relived the details of March 27, 2014, when Ridhima Dhekane died while in her care at her Burlington apartment.

"I held her like this," Macharla showed the court. "And with one hand, I opened the tap, I took the paper towel and wet it with water and I started cleaning her."

Macharla, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, testified that she had fed Dhekane homemade applesauce and put her down for a nap. While she did the dishes in the other room and put her own son down for a nap, she said Dhekane was alone in her swing.

That's when Macharla said she discovered the baby a short time later, covered in vomit, and quickly cleaned her up.

"At that point I heard a noise — gurgling noise from her mouth and I turned her towards me, and when I saw her face her eyes were closed and I called out her name," said Macharla.

She also testified that she called Dhekane's mother and did mouth-to-mouth breathing, but did not call 911.

"At that time, all I knew was that she was not breathing – she had labored breathing, so at that time all I was thinking was to bring her back to breathing," said Macharla.

Despite efforts to save her, Dhekane was pronounced dead three days later at Boston Children's Hospital. The defense said the injuries to Dhekane that may have looked like shaken baby syndrome were actually caused by both the efforts to save her, including nearly an hour of CPR and the machines she was put on for four days after she was likely brain dead.

Prosecutors allege Dhekane was a perfectly healthy baby leading up to that March day and the only explanation is that her babysitter inflicted the fatal injuries.

Under cross examination, prosecutors got Macharla to admit her story about what happened that day has changed.

"You kept lying," said Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney Katharine Folger.

"I said few lies," responded Macharla.

She admitted that she had alerted a friend down the hall she was leaving and left Dhekane alone.

"You said that your neighbor brought your son home from school," pressed Folger, to which Macharla said yes.

The defense is expected to wrap up Thursday. The jury could get the case and begin deliberating by Friday.

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