Friday, April 06, 2012

Bogus shaken baby cases

I posted below about an example of dads being falsely accused and convicted of some crime that never happens. A similar thing happens to moms.

The LA Times reports:
New reports from the Los Angeles County coroner's office and a prominent UCLA pediatrician have cast doubt on the reliability of forensic evidence used to convict a grandmother of shaking her 7-week-old grandson to death in Van Nuys 15 years ago.

The reports have emerged as Gov. Jerry Brown weighs whether to grant clemency to Shirley Ree Smith, who spent 10 years in a California prison for the mysterious death of baby Etzel Glass on Nov. 30, 1996.

As part of the clemency process, Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley asked for a fresh review by three experts of autopsy reports, evidence and testimony given at Smith's 1997 trial. While Cooley said his office remained persuaded that the forensic evidence was reliable, the two senior deputy medical examiners and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center pediatrics vice chairwoman Carol Berkowitz offered new theories on the possible cause of death that Smith's attorneys contend "clearly undermine and contradict the medical evidence which was presented at trial."

Smith, now 51, has been free since the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out her conviction in 2006, saying there was "no demonstrable support" for the prosecution's theory that Smith must have shaken the baby to death to silence his crying.
The problem with this is that there is no proof that is even possible to shake a toddler to death.

There are cases where a toddler dies of unexplained causes. It is often called crib death. The scenario is that a toddler goes unconscious or dies. The mom shakes the kid in a revival attempt, and calls 911. An autopsy fails to find the cause of death, but the mom admits to shaking the kid, and some prosecution expert testifies that internal pathology is consistent with shaking and shaken baby syndrome. The mom gets convicted of manslaughter.

It is crazy to be convicting parents for things that never happen. These are like Salem witch trials.

Update: Calif. Gov. Brown commuted the sentence on April 6. The details are here.

No comments: