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Trial in Lakeside boy's death pushed back to 2023

Jordan Carter's defense team has retained medical experts and expects to present contrary opinions in the 2020 death of Cameron Gordon.

carter,jordan.jpg
Jordan William Carter
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DULUTH — The trial of a Lakeside man accused of fatally assaulting his then-fiancee's 3-year-old son has been postponed until early next year.

It is the second delay in the case of Jordan William Carter, 32, who is charged with intentional second-degree murder in the September 2020 death of Cameron Joseph Gordon.

FILE: Cameron Joseph Gordon
Cameron Joseph Gordon

The continuance was requested in late June by defense attorney Eric Olson, who said a key medical expert was unavailable to testify in the trial, which was slated to begin with jury selection July 11.

Judge Theresa Neo agreed to remove the case from the calendar and this week rescheduled the two-week proceeding to begin Jan. 3.

The trial is expected to feature competing medical opinions on how Cameron may have suffered his fatal head injuries while in Carter's care. Authorities say evidence points to the intentional infliction of head trauma, while the defense has maintained that he suffered an accidental fall down the stairs.

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Court documents state that Carter told police Cameron fell in the family's home on the 4800 block of East Colorado Street on Sept. 3, 2020. He said the boy was "back to his normal routine" by Sept. 4, until he found the child unresponsive that afternoon. But authorities noted that he had also texted the boy's mother at one point to say: "You gave birth to satan."

Cameron was taken to a Duluth hospital, where doctors suspected child abuse, before he was flown to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis and removed from life support Sept. 6. Medical professionals determined he had brain hemorrhaging and a number of bruises and internal injuries that were "not consistent with a stairway fall."

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Cameron's death a homicide by blunt-force trauma to the head and neck.

St. Louis County prosecutor Vicky Wanta has provided notice that she may call several medical professionals, including Dr. Albert Merric, of Duluth, a neurosurgeon with training in head and spine trauma who treated Cameron, to offer an expert opinion that his death was the result of head trauma inflicted by the defendant.

Since Carter was charged in December 2020, the defense has independently retained at least three medical experts to review the hospital and autopsy reports and offer their own opinions on the cause of death.

One is Dr. Joseph Scheller, a Maryland-based pediatric neurologist who frequently testifies in child death cases throughout the nation.

"Dr. Scheller provided a report offering his opinion that the child's brain injuries could be the result of an accidental fall down a flight of stairs the day before his loss of consciousness," Olson told the court. "This accidental fall is documented in police reports and by the expected testimony of law witnesses, and Dr. Scheller's expert opinion is that this accidental fall down the stairs could have caused a slow brain bleed and swelling that ultimately led to the child's death."

Scheller, however, was "absolutely unavailable" to testify at the Duluth trial this week, Olson said, as he was already booked to appear at four matters in Florida, Illinois and Virginia.

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Attorneys said Hennepin County has failed to turn over requested materials to a defense expert in the death of 3-year-old Cameron Gordon, necessitating a delay in the trial of Jordan Carter.

"Mr. Carter has a constitutional right to present a complete defense," he said in requesting the delay. "If he is compelled to proceed to trial without Dr. Scheller, then Mr. Carter will have no way to rebut the anticipated testimony of Dr. Merric or to present evidence in support of his defense that the child died from an accidental fall down the stairs."

The defense declined to have Scheller testify by video at this month's scheduled trial, citing a "diminished" persuasive effect on the jury. Judge Neo granted the postponement but directed the defense to take steps to ensure the doctor will be available to travel to Duluth for the January date.

The trial was previously delayed from late February, with both sides sharply criticizing the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office for significant delays in providing autopsy materials to another defense expert.

Carter has remained free on bond while the case is pending.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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