Shaken Baby "Science" Disputable

On August 20, 2022, Drayton Witt was sentenced to twenty years in prison for the death of an infant. Allegedly, he killed the baby by shaking the child, which is known as "shaken baby." Throughout all the precedings, and even after sentencing, he proclaimed that he did not do such a thing. On May 31, 2012, he was released, due to a motion that was filed regarding the fallacy of the shaken baby "science."

More and more we are learning that "Shaken baby" diagnosis are not as solid as we once thought. There is much room for dispute.

Even though Witt was released pursuant to the judges orders, the prosecution is retrying the case. They can't admit that they locked up the wrong person for 10 years. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that his office still believes that Witt killed his baby, saying "Obviously, we believed it the first time around."

The idea that shaking a baby could cause brain injury was first proposed in a 1971 medical-journal article. It gained popularity and in 1996 the term "shaken-baby syndrome" entered the Random House dictionary. In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics produced a position paper, stating that doctors should presume abuse in any baby under a year old who had head injuries absent obvious trauma.

As a Kansas criminal defense attorney, I am well aware what happens when a child is brought into the emergency room. If shaken baby even seems like a remote possibility, SRS is contacted, the police are contacted, and a suspect is gathered up, whoever was the last known person with the child. Once shaken baby is determined, the doctors put on their blinders, often ignoring evidence that might suggest a different reason for a baby's problems.

As in Witt's situation, while they are anguishing over the injured child, they are simultaneously arrested and then face years in prison….over disputable science. Congratulations to the criminal defense lawyers who helped free a man who was likely wrongfully charged. The three pronged test used by doctors to determine shaken baby has been seriously questioned recently. The doctor who came up with it was flawed.

Categories: Criminal law
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