Doctor testifies about condition of mother accused of putting her baby in dumpster

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The trial of Shelby Taylor, who is accused of putting her newborn baby in a dumpster in April 2015, continued with more testimony from defense witnesses on Wednesday.

Taylor is pleading not guilty to attempted homicide by child abuse. She testified Tuesday and tearfully admitted to delivering her own baby and discarding it in the dumpster.

The final witness for the defense testified about the condition of Taylor when she put her baby in the dumpster.

The basis of the defense's case is that Taylor had an extreme variation of postpartum depression called transient peripartum psychosis. Dr. Robert McCarthy, a local clinical forensic and mental health counselor who did a comprehensive forensic evaluation of Taylor, testified for nearly two hours.

"The denial was so extensive that even when it became so physically obvious that she was likely pregnant, she was even telling people she wasn't," McCarthy said. "So there was a reality testing issue involved."

McCarthy defined transient peripartum psychosis as a depression that significantly intensifies the month prior to delivery and can last several months after.

He said the word transient means it's short lived not chronic. The word psychosis refers to a woman who feels chaos and confusion on a cognitive level and can become irrational, delusional, agitated and feel extreme denial.

"Those are all the known scientific risk factors associated with what's technically called baby dumping and the overwhelming number of women who are arrested for this offense have that diagnosis," McCarthy said.

McCarthy also described symptoms Taylor showed as bizarre and delusional, and premeditation can come from financial pressures of an unplanned pregnancy if a baby will feel like a burden.

"The psychosis part of that for many women involves chaos and confusion on a cognitive level, so they become disoriented, become illogical, irrational and then think and engage in behaviors they wouldn't normally do," he said.

Before testimony, the prosecution first asked to clarify the witness' educational background to the court and to prove his expertise.

Deputy solicitor Scott Hixson challenged McCarthy's qualifications to give an actual diagnosis and said he is not an M.D. but instead a counselor.

Ultimately, Judge Robert Hood qualified McCarthy as an expert in the area of clinical forensic evaluation and counseling, but noted it doesn't mean the jury has to accept that.

During cross examination, Hixson said he does not question McCarthy's mental health counseling background, but the validity of the report. He said he had her age wrong by at least two years and continued to point out errors as his argument.

"The report was done one year after she gave birth to the baby. A day later the M.D. says she appears to be cognitively intact with good attention and concentration. She is able to follow commands and follows to questions appropriately. The only diagnosis psychiatric symptoms she reported at this time was nightmares because of what she did. You're aware of all of that?" Hixson asked.

"Yes," McCarthy replied. "When you write a report one year later that says she is confused, irrational, that she is agitated and anxious, well she is anxious because of what she did."

After the judge let the jury go home, he reread the indictment charge to both sides, which includes the attempted murder count. The defense is asking for a lesser offense on all charges.

Closing arguments will begin Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and the jury will then deliberate.

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