Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Shaky Science of Shaken Baby Syndrome

On New York’s Rikers Island, the parents of baby Annie await trial for shaking their infant girl to death. Her mother and father deny harming their child in any way, but prosecutors claim the 70 day old baby died with a severely fractured skull and brain damage consistent with being shaken violently.

Shaken baby syndrome presents a terrifying dilemma to the criminal justice system: a false conviction leaves a grieving parent or other innocent in prison for years while an undeserved exoneration could allow a dangerous child abuser to kill again. Unfortunately, the medical science used to determine the cause of death in infants suspected of being shaken to death is far from precise, and certainly not conducive to the simple “guilty” or “not guilty” decisions that courts require. [...]

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