Court reduces Mass. woman’s murder conviction in death of 6-month-old

Pallavi Macharla

A judge has reduced the sentence of a Massachusetts woman convicted of second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, saying it was not “consonant with justice.” Pallavi Macharla, 44, of Burlington, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years following her conviction in May, in the 2014 death of a 6-month-old baby she was caring for.

News reports, citing prosecutors said Macharla, a physician in her native India who ran a day care out of her Burlington home, shook Ridhima Dhekane in March 2014 so violently her brain bled.

According to news reports in the Burlington Patch and the Boston Globe, Judge Kenneth Fishman said in a ruling last month that conflicting medical theories presented during the four-week trial that ended in May made the second-degree murder verdict unsustainable. As a result of the ruling, Macharla now stands convicted of involuntary manslaughter. A new sentencing date was scheduled for Sept. 27. While the charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years, state sentencing guidelines call for sentences of no more than five years.

The Burlington Patch reported that “the inconsistent evidence stemmed from a decision by a former Massachusetts medical examiner to change the cause of death of the six-month-old girl from homicide to undetermined.” Anna McDonald was performing her first autopsy involving suspected fatal baby shaken syndrome on Dhekane after the child died from injuries sustained in Macharla’s care in 2014.

McDonald initially ruled the death a homicide. But more than a year after her initially ruling, and after she had left for a job in North Carolina, McDonald changed the cause of death to “undetermined.” During Macharla’s trial, McDonald testified she changed the cause of death after reading medical articles that contradicted her previous beliefs on the case.

At trial, prosecutors said Macharla, who was a medical doctor in her native India, became frustrated when the baby began fussing and shook her so violently her brain bled.

Macharla, who testified in her own defense, said the baby had vomited shortly after she fed her homemade applesauce and then stopped breathing.

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