We Need to Revisit All 'Shaken Baby' Convictions

Science is casting doubt on diagnosis
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2010 10:10 AM CDT
Updated Sep 25, 2010 8:00 AM CDT
We Need to Revisit All 'Shaken Baby' Convictions
A 2007 file photo of Audrey Edmunds in jail in Wisconsin. She was convicted on charges of shaking a baby to death, but all charges were dropped by prosecutors when her case was revisited.   (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The medical community continues to find evidence that 'shaken baby syndrome' is too often diagnosed. The problem is that the legal community continues to convict and imprison parents and baby-sitters. "Increasingly, it appears that a good number of the people charged with and convicted of homicide may be innocent," writes law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer in the New York Times. She says it's time for a systematic review of all such convictions in the US, as Canada's Ontario province is already doing.

"For decades, shaken baby syndrome has been, in essence, a medical diagnosis of murder," she writes. But doctors now know that the so-called "triad" of telltale symptoms ("retinal hemorrhages, bleeding around the brain, and brain swelling") can be caused in other ways. "Going forward, prosecutors, judges and juries should exercise greater skepticism. The triad of symptoms alone cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an infant has been fatally shaken." (More shaken baby syndrome stories.)

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