Almost three years ago, Isaac Whaley of Chatsworth went to jail on charges that he killed his 4-month-old daughter, Jaidyn, by shaking her until she was irreversibly injured.
On Tuesday, District Attorney Bert Poston went before Judge Cindy Morris in Murray County Superior Court and had the murder and child cruelty charges dismissed after learning Whaley passed a lie detector test administered by a respected expert in the field.
Whaley’s attorney, Doug Peters of Decatur, praised prosecutors for considering that evidence rather than moving forward with a trial scheduled for Oct. 21, and he said Whaley, who has been out of jail on bond, is relieved.
“We are extremely appreciative of the district attorney’s decision to dismiss the charges,” Peters said. “We have always felt that Mr. Whaley was innocent; and he and his family are so relieved that the district attorney has now made the decision not to go forward with the case.”
Whaley and several family members declined to comment, referring questions to attorneys.
A medical examiner’s opinion shortly after Jaidyn’s death showed that the child died from internal injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome and that some person caused the injuries, Poston said. The investigation showed Whaley was the only one with her at the time, he said.
Poston said Whaley’s defense team — which includes attorney Jason Sheffield of Decatur — only recently informed him that Whaley had taken and passed a polygraph test a year ago and that the test was administered by a trusted expert. In a dismissal document presented in court, Poston wrote, “Given the particular trustworthiness of this polygraph examiner, the state is persuaded that there is more than a mere possibility that his results are accurate.”
Poston said the dismissal doesn’t necessarily mean prosecutors now believe Whaley is innocent. They just don’t know which of the conflicting sets of evidence to believe.
“Mr. Whaley may very well have shaken Jaidyn and caused her death and the polygraph results may be in error,” Poston said. “On the other hand, the polygraph may be correct and the medical examiner may be in error. Since we are not able to determine which expert is in error, we cannot ethically go forward with the prosecution and have to give Mr. Whaley the benefit of the doubt.”
While the polygraph changes things for Whaley, it also means officials may never be able to definitively prove what happened to Jaidyn. Poston said the criminal case is closed and there are no plans for further investigation.
“Neither the medical examiner nor the other doctors who examined the child would have any reason to change their medical diagnosis based on the polygraph,” Poston said.
Peters and Sheffield said they had planned to dispute the conclusions reached from the medical evidence and had “extensive medical evidence of our own” they would have presented at trial. Neither attorney would elaborate on exactly what they believe happened to Jaidyn.
Whaley has maintained his innocence from the beginning. The then-27-year-old father called 911 and, rather than wait for an ambulance, brought Jaidyn to Murray Medical Center on his own. That was Nov. 17, 2010. Jaidyn died two days later at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga.
“He has remained with his family,” Sheffield said of Whaley. “He has remained employed and productive, and now with this off his back he’ll be able to really emotionally deal with the loss of his daughter in a way that he’s not been able to do because of the impending trial.”
Sheffield said Whaley and his wife have remained together and that she and her family support him.
“He is very thankful that this load has been lifted from him and that he can resume a normal life as a father and a husband,” Peters said.