Crime & Courts

Authorities explain lack of charges in Fort Mill birthing center death

Sabrina Gast presides over a coroners inquest is held at the Moss Justice Center into the cause of death of Daxton Lee Green, A newborn who died 1/20/2015 after being taken from Carolina Community Maternity shortly after birth to a Charlotte area hospital.
Sabrina Gast presides over a coroners inquest is held at the Moss Justice Center into the cause of death of Daxton Lee Green, A newborn who died 1/20/2015 after being taken from Carolina Community Maternity shortly after birth to a Charlotte area hospital. Special to The Herald

Investigators decided after a newborn died at a Fort Mill birthing center in January that there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant a criminal charge. After a York County jury on Thursday ruled the baby’s death a homicide, that is still the case.

Daxton Lee Green died Jan. 20 shortly after he was born at the Carolina Community Maternity Center in Fort Mill.

This week, York County Coroner Sabrina Gast convened a panel of six jurors who, after several hours of testimony Thursday, ruled the baby’s death a homicide. Homicide was one of four choices the jurors had; the other choices were natural, accidental and undetermined.

Gast said after the hearing that she conducted an investigation into the newborn’s death, along with the York County Sheriff’s Office, the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office and the State Law Enforcement Division.

York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant on Friday spoke with his investigators and the solicitor’s office and said they do not plan to investigate the baby’s death any further.

“We’re all of the agreement, this shouldn’t have happened to this child,” he said. “But there was no criminal intent on anybody’s part. It is a sad case. Our hearts go out to the family and all involved.”

Solicitor Kevin Brackett said he doesn’t plan to reopen the investigation or explore any criminal charges.

“The facts and circumstances surrounding the death in this case were looked into for the purpose of determining if there was any evidence that would support a criminal charge,” he said, adding that no evidence was found.

Thursday’s hearing doesn’t change that decision, Brackett said. He reiterated that homicide isn’t a criminal charge.

“There’s nothing in the criminal code that says it’s illegal to commit a homicide. There are homicides that don’t rise to the level of a crime,” he said. “This is one of those instances. Nothing in the coroner’s inquest would change the opinion we all held up front that this does not rise to the level of what we call in legal terminology reckless indifference to human life.”

In explaining the difference between negligence and criminal negligence, Brackett said, “If someone drives their car 75 mph through the center of town at lunch time when the speed limit is 30 mph, that’s the kind of behavior a reasonable person would look at and say, ‘Someone could get killed.’

“As opposed to exceeding the speed limit, they take their eyes off the road for a second and someone steps out. That’s not criminal negligence; that’s negligence. It doesn’t show the reckless indifference to human life,” Brackett said.

The baby died of meconium aspiration. Meconium, or an infant’s first stool, was around the fetus in the uterus and was found in his airways, according to testimony.

Employees of the birthing center said Thursday they didn’t see meconium on the baby until immediately before his birth. They testified that after the baby was delivered, they administered oxygen, CPR and tried to clear his airways using a bulb syringe.

The baby was later pronounced dead at a Charlotte hospital.

Any charge involving negligence is also off the table, Brackett said, because there would need to be evidence to support “a finding that somebody had engaged in conduct that was grossly reckless in such a nature that it demonstrated a total disregard for human life.”

The Fort Mill birthing center is no longer licensed with the state and is not accepting new clients. A message on its website says the center attended its last birth Feb. 28.

There is a pending lawsuit against the center filed last year by a Rock Hill couple, whose baby was stillborn at a hospital after the mother went to the birthing center experiencing painful contractions.

Daxton’s parents, Ryan and Megan Green, have not filed any civil action against Carolina Community Maternity Center.

Teddy Kulmala •  803-329-4082

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