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Important Law Review: Why Courts Have to Take a New Look at Shaken Baby Cases

Professor Keith Findley has just published an important law review on the problems with “shaken baby syndrome”. Professor Findley is the director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. He was also the lead attorney in State v Audrey Edmunds. Ms. Edmunds was originally convicted of first degree reckless homicide when a child she was watching mysteriously died. She was later exonerated when the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed her conviction finding the evidence unreliable. She was never recharged. Unfortunately, the Edmunds case is the exception. In most courts in the United States, this evidence is routinely received and Daubert challenges are denied. The law review was published as part a Medico-Legal Symposium at the University of Oklahoma where a number of leading doctors and lawyers made a public appeal to revisit the reliability of this diagnosis.

This is one of many law reviews being published in an attempt to challenge this dangerous diagnosis. Earlier this year a law review published in the
University of Houston Health, Law, and Policy Journal by Law Professors Findley and David Moran, together with Medical Professors Dr. Patrick David Barnes and Dr. Wayney Squier directly questioning this diagnosis. Here is a link to an interview with Dr Squier with CBC’s Broadcast Journal “The Fifth Estate.” (CBC allows this video to be watched worldwide).

University of Michigan Innocence Clinic Director
David Moran also has several articles about to be published along this line. Additionally, the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University has reconsidered its prior position and has started taking shaken baby cases. Part of this change in position was based on the fact that Dr. Norman Guthkelch who was one of the original proponents of this theory has now come out stating that his theories have been hijacked and are being used to reach unsupportable conclusions. Dr Guthkelch’s paper is available here. Here is a nice CBS-Chicago story on this. Here is a one year old NPR on the subject. Lastly, here is a nice ABA Article on the subject.

For a long time, the Edmunds conviction stood alone in US jurisprudence, but there are signs that things are changing. The Cardozo Innocence Project has obtained two retrials based on this flawed science. Drayton Witt is the most interesting. He was exonerated after Dr. Guthkelch testified to the Arizona court about his theories have been misapplied. Here is a
link to the Innocence Project’s article on this case. Here is a 2011 New York Times article covering this case and more.

Two years ago, I covered Michigan’s grant of a retrial in the
Julie Baumer case. Ms. Baumer was later acquitted but by then lost all rights over her child. Here is a law review written by University of Michigan law student Rachel Burg which covers this case.

All of these changes are very promising, but when I talk to medical professionals they look at me like I am insane. I think it will be a while before they can admit that they have been worshipping a false god.