Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of child abuse that presents as bleeding and brain swelling in an infant that is believed to be caused by violent shaking. Tragedy is compounded when prosecutors rely on outdated medical literature that claims to find evidence of intentional injury even when no such abuse occurred. When child abuse prosecutions rely on flawed interpretations of physical signs and symptoms, they may result in families being torn apart and innocent people being sent to prison. There have been advances in the understanding of the complexities in making a diagnosis of child abuse (and more specifically, SBS) that have been ignored by prosecutors, their so-called “child abuse experts”, and the courts.
In Commonwealth v. Epps the Supreme Judicial Court ordered a new trial, and faulted trial counsel for failing to present expert testimony supportive of the defense that the injuries to the child were caused by an accidental fall. The Court wrote that “[i]f the jury had learned [from an expert] that injuries of the type and severity suffered by Veronica could have been caused by short falls of the type described by the defendant, they might have had reasonable doubt whether the defendant violently shook Veronica.” The Court “conclude[d] that the defendant was deprived of effective assistance of counsel because “new research [that] has emerged since the time of trial that would lend credibility to the opinion of such an expert.”
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