Search Results for ‘shaken baby’

A shaken baby syndrome researcher reconsiders

British neuropathologist Waney Squier spent many years as an expert witness in court assisting in the prosecution of defendants accused of causing Shaken Baby Syndrome. Then a closer engagement with the evidence caused her to change her mind — and the story that follows, which she tells in this TEDx Wandsworth talk, must be heard to be believed. Sue Luttner has more for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. More on the story: Jon Robins, The Justice Gap; Theodore Dalrymple, Spectator.

More: “Judge orders release of woman who served 11 years behind bars in grandson’s death” [Marisa Gerber, L.A. Times; earlier on shaken baby syndrome] More about Deborah Tuerkheimer’s 2014 book Flawed Convictions, which I haven’t seen, is here.

The man who exposed the shoddy forensics of Shaken Baby Syndrome — and got prosecuted

John Plunkett, who just died at age 70, was a Minnesota medical examiner who grew skeptical of the forensic theory behind Shaken Baby Syndrome.

He started investigating cases in which children had died in a manner similar to the way accused caregivers had described the deaths of the children they were watching — by short-distance falls. What he found alarmed him. In 2001, Plunkett published a study detailing how he had found symptoms similar to those in the SBS diagnosis in children who had fallen off playground equipment. It was a landmark study. If a short-distance fall could produce symptoms similar to those in SBS cases, the SBS diagnosis that said symptoms could only come from shaking was wrong. By that point, hundreds of people had been convicted based on SBS testimony from medical experts. Some of them were undoubtedly guilty. But if Plunkett was right, some of them almost certainly weren’t.

After he gave expert testimony that led to an acquittal in Oregon and thus became “a threat to SBS cases all over the country,” the county district attorney indicted Plunkett over supposed inconsistencies in his testimony. Those proceedings eventuated in the dropping of some charges and Plunkett’s acquittal on the rest; in the mean time, however, they chilled the willingness of defense attorneys elsewhere to rely on his testimony. [Radley Balko]

Washington Post begins Shaken Baby Syndrome series

Washington Post today launches an investigative series on dubious Shaken Baby Syndrome convictions. “In Illinois, a federal judge who recently freed a mother of two after nearly a decade in prison called Shaken Baby Syndrome ‘more an article of faith than a proposition of science.'” We’ve covered this developing story with many links in recent years.

Shaken-baby syndrome: the doubts

In dozens of prosecutions each year, parents or caregivers are charged after infants who died under their care have been found to display supposedly infallible indicators of abuse — in particular, subdural and retinal hemorrhage with brain swelling. Many convicted defendants stoutly maintain their innocence all along; others are sent to prison on the basis of equivocal “confessions”. Even when (as is common) there is no pattern of previous child abuse, it often happens that authorities remove other children from an alleged abuser’s home as legal action proceeds. Has the hope of using cutting-edge forensics to identify abusers wound up leading the authorities and courts to inflict new injustices? [Emily Bazelon, New York Times Magazine] More: Balko.

Now out: Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington on Mississippi forensics scandal

On Thursday I attended a Cato forum with Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington on their new book on the extraordinary Mississippi forensics scandal, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South.” Excerpt of blurb from event:

Over the past 25 years, more than 2,000 individuals have been exonerated in the United States after being wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit. There is good reason to believe that tens or even hundreds of thousands more languish in American prisons today.

How this can happen unfolds in the riveting new book from Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington. The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist recounts the story of two Mississippi doctors—Dr. Steven Hayne, a medical examiner, and Dr. Michael West, a dentist—who built successful careers as the go-to experts for prosecutors and whose actions led many innocent defendants to land in prison. Some of the convictions then began to fall apart, including those of two innocent men who spent a combined 30 years in prison before being exonerated in 2008.

Balko and Carrington reveal how Mississippi officials propelled West and Hayne to the top of the state’s criminal justice apparatus and then, through institutional failures and structural racism, empowered these two “experts” to produce countless flawed convictions on bad evidence and bogus science….

The book recounts in detail the unlikely claims that can be put across for supposed autopsy and bite-mark evidence, especially when no well-informed lawyer appears on the other side to push back. In addition to an exceedingly high volume of autopsy reports for police, Hayne was also available for medical expert witness testimony in civil litigation. We’ve been on the story for ten years: see links here, here, here, here, and here.

Related: The dubious forensics of “shaken baby syndrome” have been known for years. This Mississippi man remains on Death Row for it. [excerpt from book in Reason]

February 8 roundup

  • Freedom of association is at risk from California’s effort to crack open donor names of advocacy nonprofits [Ilya Shapiro on Cato Ninth Circuit amicus]
  • “Center for Class Action Fairness wins big in Southwest Airlines coupons case, triples relief for class members” [CEI, earlier here, here]
  • Campus kangaroo courts: KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. have spent a week guestblogging at Volokh on their new book (first, second, third, fourth, fifth, earlier links; plus Christina Hoff Sommers and WSJ video interviews with Stuart Taylor, Jr.]
  • Despite his I’m-no-libertarian talk, two 2015 cases show Judge Neil Gorsuch alert to rights of Drug War defendants [Jacob Sullum]
  • Drug pricing, estate/inheritance double tax whammy, shaken baby case, mini-OIRA in my new Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
  • And the legal fees flowed like water: dispute with Georgia over water rights has clocked $72 million in legal bills for Florida [Orlando Sentinel]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • More dangerous today than in past to be a cop in America? Available evidence suggests the opposite [Radley Balko, more]
  • New York Times covers shaken-baby syndrome with look back at Louise Woodward trial [Poynter; Boston Globe on shaken baby syndrome in May; earlier]
  • Study from National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) on gaps in indigent defense misses chance to highlight voucher/choice remedies [Adam Bates, Cato]
  • The far reach of Sarbanes-Oxley: “You Can Be Prosecuted for Clearing Your Browser History” [Juliana DeVries, The Nation]
  • “Has the ‘Responsible Corporate Officer’ doctrine run amok?” [Bainbridge, earlier on Quality Egg/U.S. v. DeCoster case and mens rea]
  • Federal judge, in April: U.S. Attorney Bharara’s publicity tactics against Sheldon Silver strayed close to line [ruling via Ira Stoll]
  • Suspending drivers licenses over unpaid tickets can push poor motorists into downward spiral [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Balko]

Medical roundup

  • Scorecards on complication rates and outcomes may reveal little about who’s a bad doctor since best docs sometimes take hardest cases [Saurabh Jha, KevinMD] “Anatomy of error: a surgeon remembers his mistakes” [The New Yorker]
  • When parents and doctors don’t agree, are allegations of “medical child abuse” levied too liberally? [Maxine Eichner, New York Times; Lenore Skenazy, see also “medical kidnapping” links]
  • ABA’s Standing Committee on Medical Professional Liability derailed in bid for House of Delegates resolution endorsing unlimited punitive damages in product liability [Drug & Device Law first, second, third posts]
  • Wisconsin repeals medical whistleblower law [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
  • “Politically Driven Unionization Threatens In-Home Care” [David Osborne, IBD]
  • Ninth Circuit upholds Washington state regulations forcing family pharmacy to dispense morning-after pills [The Becket Fund]
  • Pathologist who frequently diagnosed shaken baby syndrome loses Montana role [Missoulian]