Man goes free after questions arise about shaken baby syndrome
In the late 1990s, round-the-clock trial coverage was just beginning to become popular. At that time, an au pair from Britain faced trial following the death of a toddler in her care. Eventually, after hearing extensive testimony about shaken baby syndrome, a jury found the au pair guilty of second-degree murder.
While shaken baby syndrome seemed to gain widespread acceptance in medical and legal circles, it has come under extensive scrutiny in recent years. In fact, according to reporting from ABC News, a California man just walked free after serving 15 years of a 25-years-to-life sentence following a judge’s reevaluation of the science behind shaken baby syndrome.
What is shaken baby syndrome?
In straightforward terms, shaken baby syndrome is a catastrophic brain or brain stem injury that develops when someone violently shakes an infant or toddler. If a person does this, the individual likely satisfies the elements of child abuse. If the baby dies, of course, the person may be guilty of second-degree murder.
Why has the science changed?
In the past, many pediatricians believed shaking babies was the only way to produce the brain trauma they observed in MRIs, CT scans and X-rays. Consequently, it was not hard to find a medical expert to testify that abusive behaviors caused a child’s injuries or death.
Now, most scientists recognize that brain injuries can come from events that have nothing to do with child abuse. For example, a child who appears to suffer from shaken baby syndrome may have suffered an injury when falling or bumping his or her head.
Ultimately, anyone who is facing child abuse or murder charges because of perceived shaken baby syndrome may want to explore whether something else caused or contributed to the child’s injuries or death.