Category Archives: Junk science

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) – Bad Science and the Race for Massachusetts Governor

In an op-ed piece that will appear in tomorrow’s (10/19) print edition of the Boston Globe, Lee Scheier takes former prosecutor Martha Coakley to task for her “deft misuse of science” in the SBS conviction of Louise Woodward, a British nanny who was working for the Eappen family when their 8-month-old son Matthew died in 1997.

Coakley is currently running for governor of Massachusetts, and recently set up a photo op with Deborah Eappen, Matthew’s mother, trying to defend her record on “protecting children.”

This quote from the article:  “Coakley’s odd invocation of this case demands that we look at the facts. What cannot be lost in all of this political maneuvering is the truth about the Woodward case and all the thousands of shaken-baby cases before and since Woodward. The truth is that Martha Coakley’s deft misuse of science actually came very close to sending an innocent caretaker to prison for life.” (emphasis mine)

See the Boston Globe op-ed here.

Thanks to Dr. John Plunkett for passing this along.

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

California Anti-Junk Science Forensics Bill Signed Into Law

Mike Bowers, on his blog Forensics in Focus, has posted the news that a new “anti-junk science forensics” bill has been signed into law in California.

The law permits post conviction defendants the ability to contest expert testimony that was presented against them at trial. In other words, convictions in which experts have either repudiated their past testimony, or used forensic “science” that is later deemed faulty by legitimate research, are subject to later proceedings reversing that conviction.

This is a huge deal, because it prevents prosecutors and judges from just using old case law as an excuse for ignoring habeas corpus appeals expressing new forensic research and attitudes.

SBS Documentary “The Syndrome” – Interview with the Producer

We posted here on the WCB about the new SBS Documentary The Syndrome a few days ago.  See that post here.

As I hope you all know, Sue Luttner is the editor of the blog OnSBS.  Sue was recently able to conduct a phone interview with the producer of The Syndrome, Susan Goldsmith, and posted about it here.

 

New Shaken Baby Syndrome Documentary – “The Syndrome”

A new, compelling documentary on the junk science of shaken baby syndrome, titled The Syndrome, will premiere at the Kansas Film Festival in October, 2014.

Synopsis:  The Syndrome tells the story of a group of doctors who say that shaken baby syndrome, the basis of hundreds of criminal cases every year, is not scientifically valid. The film focuses on three key doctors: A Georgetown University neurosurgeon, a former Minnesota state medical examiner, and the head of Stanford University’s Pediatric Neuroradiology Department. These doctors are part of a growing scientific movement coming to the defense of the some thousand people in prison for shaken baby. In an unprecedented criminal justice crisis, promoters of shaken baby syndrome are not backing down.

Watch the trailer here.

Editorial Comment:  Of course the promoters of this medical voodoo are not backing down.  For them, SBS has been their source of livelihood, notoriety, and power.

Research project issues report on wrongful arson convictions

The Arson Research Project says that 30 men and women have been exonerated from wrongful arson convictions since 1991. More than half of them were exonerated from life sentences or from death row. In the case of one Texas inmate, Cameron Todd Willingham, the research project says, such forensic error led to the execution of an innocent man.

To help prevent such tragedies in the future, the Arson Research Project, which is affiliated at Monterey College of Law, has published an excellent report, Anatomy of a Wrongful Arson Conviction, which you can download here.

The center’s director, Paul Bieber, presents a good video summary on wrongful arson convictions and the difficulty reversing them, here.

New Scholarship Spotlight: Shaken Baby Syndrome, Wrongful Convictions, and the Dangers of Aversion to Changing Science in Criminal Law

Cassandra Ann Jenecke has posted the above-titled article on SSRN.  Download here.  The abstract states:

Shaken Baby Syndrome prosecutions are vulnerable to wrongful convictions because of the erosion of the science behind the diagnosis of SBS and because of the inflammatory nature of the charges. This paper evaluates the science behind the medical and legal diagnosis of SBS. It also explores international reforms related to the same developments in science and finds the American response lacking. The author concludes that without recognition of and reform related to the evolution of our scientific understanding of SBS, actors within the American criminal justice system will continue to contribute to the almost certain wrongful conviction of innocent caregivers and parents.