Examining Shaken Baby Syndrome Convictions in Light of New Medical Scientific Research

34 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2012 Last revised: 11 Oct 2013

Keith A. Findley

University of Wisconsin Law School

Patrick David Barnes

Stanford University - School of Medicine

David A. Moran

University of Michigan Law School

Carrie Sperling

University of Wisconsin Law School, Frank J. Remington Center

Date Written: October 10, 2012

Abstract

This is the text of a talk given by Keith Findley as part of the Integris Law & Medicine Lecture Series at Oklahoma City University School of Law on September 27, 2011, with commentary by Dr. Patrick Barnes, Professor David Moran, and Professor Carrie Sperling. The talks address controversies that have arisen in the past ten or twelve years over the diagnosis Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) (now known also more expansively as Abusive Head Trauma (AHT)) and prosecution of individuals based on the hypothesis that the child was injured or died after an adult caregiver violently shook the child. The talks examine the science-dependent nature of prosecutions (or child removal actions) based on the shaking hypothesis, as well as emerging controversies from new medical research about whether shaking can cause such injuries and death, at least without causing extensive neck and cervical spine injuries; whether the indicators previously attributed almost exclusively to shaking -- such as subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhages -- are indeed diagnostic of abuse; whether other causes, both natural and accidental, can mimic abuse and lead medical professionals astray; and whether the onset of clear neurological impairment can reliably be timed to the infliction of injuries so that the medical science can be used to identity the perpetrator (assuming there was one). This talk examines how the legal system is being called upon to re-examine SBS convictions in light of this evolving medical science.

Keywords: Shaken Baby Syndrome, SBS, Abusive Head Trauma, AHT, innocence, wrongful conviction, subdural hematoma, retinal hemorrhages

JEL Classification: K42

Suggested Citation

Findley, Keith A. and Barnes, Patrick David and Moran, David A. and Sperling, Carrie, Examining Shaken Baby Syndrome Convictions in Light of New Medical Scientific Research (October 10, 2012). Oklahoma City University Law Review, Vol. 37, No. 2, 2012; Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1210. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2159707

Keith A. Findley (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-262-4763 (Phone)
608-263-3380 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.wisc.edu/facstaff/biog.php?iID=269

Patrick David Barnes

Stanford University - School of Medicine ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

David A. Moran

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

Carrie Sperling

University of Wisconsin Law School, Frank J. Remington Center ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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