A small but growing number of doctors warn that there can be alternate explanations—infections or bleeding disorders, for example—for the triad of symptoms associated with what has come to be known as shaken-baby syndrome. Across the country, the group of lawyers that has succeeded in exonerating hundreds of people based on DNA evidence is now mounting 20 to 25 appeals of shaken-baby convictions.
“No one wants child abuse,” says Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project and professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, in a recent New York Times Magazine article on the subject. “But we should not be prosecuting and convicting people in shaken-baby cases right now, based on the triad of symptoms, without other evidence of abuse. If the medical community can’t agree about all the conflicting data and research, how is a jury supposed to reach a conclusion that’s beyond a reasonable doubt?”
The article explores several cases like that of Trudy Eliana Muñoz Rueda, a Fairfax County, VA caregiver convicted of shaking 4-month-old Noah Whitmer and sentenced to 10½ years in prison. Though Rueda had a spotless record as a childcare provider, prosecutors presented six doctors who testified that Noah’s brain scans showed he'd been abused.
This and other cases—such as that of Audrey Edmunds, whom Findley helped successfully appeal similar charges in 2008—point to the complicated nature of shaken-baby syndrome, whose foundation rests on both medical research and human nature.
To read the full New York Times Magazine article, click here.
Submitted by UW Law News on February 3, 2011
This article appears in the categories: In the Media