Shaken Baby Syndrome Accusations: A Modern Day Witch Hunt?

Sue Luttner posted this earlier on her blog “On SBS” here.

Hangbin and Yi Ling have been incarcerated in Rikers Island since 2008 for the abusive death of their baby daughter Annie.  It was discovered only a few months ago that Annie had a genetic marker for osteogesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease), and the family histories suggest the possibility of other genetic  problems as well.  The NY Chinese community has rallied around them, and formed a support group.  That group recently published a statement which summarizes the SBS situation quite well.  Here is the text of their statement:

Shaken Baby Syndrome Accusations: A Modern Day Witch Hunt?

Abuse of children is a real problem. People who commit the crime deserve the full fury of law. However, it is very important that evidence based science instead of the old SBS dogma be used in distinguishing cases where abuse actually occurs as opposed to trauma occurring for other reasons. In the Li’s case, 5 months after the passing away of their beloved daughter Annie, and still in deep bereavement over the loss of their beloved child, Hangbin and Ying were incarcerated, not knowing why.

Last month (October), which is almost 5 years after their initial incarceration, Hangbin was offered a plea bargain which was really tempting. This poor young man was offered the choice of immediate freedom at the price of his innocence. The mental torture he suffered was inhumane. “To be or not to be, that is the question.” He called family members, supporters and friends for advice. He asked me and my wife,: “If I were your son, what would you tell me?” We cried. Oh God, what this man has suffered I would not wish my worst enemy to go through.

Finally, Hang Bin made a decision. While he almost ended up accepting the offer, a sudden idea struck him. As a victim of false SBS allegations, he felt that no one else should suffer as he did. From various literatures, he had learned that the number of people who have been wrongly accused of SBS is far more than he imagined. He started to ask himself these questions: Does this (false allegation/conviction) have to go on and on? Why do I have to admit to something I did not do? Do innocent people have to be accused and convicted of something they have not done and do nothing about it? On top of that, he has already lost Annie; he can’t afford to lose Ying and his second daughter Angela (he will be deported when the court releases him if he admits to any charge against him). They are the love of his life.

Baby Annie was born with mutated gene and had spent her first few days in the NICU. In a DNA test done on Annie’s tissue a couple of months back, defective gene relating to OI (Osteogenesis Imperfecta) had been detected. “ It would be important to understand other inherited conditions in Annie’s family that might have created a situation that looked like shaken baby syndrome but was in fact, attributed to something else,” said Dr. Sessions Cole, director of newborn medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

If one would just spend some time researching the SBS literature and talk to the wrongly accused in depth, he/she will be taken aback at the absurdity of the triad based SBS assumptions which the prosecutors resorted to in the conviction of many parents/caregivers. You can’t help but ask one question again and again: Given the wide array of solid scientific research that questions the validity of SBS theory, why does the judicial system still choose to turn a deaf ear to evidence based science? Even former supporters of the SBS theory such as the renowned Dr. Norman Guthkelch and Dr. Patrick Barnes, are now advising caution before choosing a SBS diagnosis. Dr. Guthkelch is credited with founding the syndrome in 1971.

How can the criminal justice system and law enforcement officers, hold high the banner of justice on one hand, but on the other, refuse to look at truth? How many ears must one law officer have before he can hear innocent people cry? How many wrongful imprisonments will it take till he knows that too many people have been falsely convicted? This is a very serious question that every concerned citizen should think about. The protection of children is a measure of society’s progress. There are people who abuse children. They should be given the gravest penalty that the law allows. But do we have the right to punish the innocent just because we know that there are heinous child abusers out there so that scarifying the innocent can be justified in the name of protecting children? A humanistic society should not allow that.

We need a rigid diagnostic protocol to be applied to SBS cases to prevent medical professionals from jumping to conclusions as soon as they see the 3 symptoms of shaken baby syndrome. Dr. Guthkelch says it’s time to get all interested parties together to get them to agree on what can be said with scientific certainty about shaken baby syndrome. How much longer do we have to wait until this is accomplished? The sword of Damocles could fall on anyone as long as the triad based diagnosis is allowed to reign supreme.

Hangbin & Ying Li Rescue Committee/Michael Chu


NY Times article, “What Happened to Baby Annie?”, here.

Li Ying has been recently released on bail.  NY Times article here.

7 responses to “Shaken Baby Syndrome Accusations: A Modern Day Witch Hunt?

  1. Thank you for posting this touching letter, Mr. Locke. I am reminded of a similar case mentioned here:
    One would think that prosecutors would learn from the mistakes of others, especially given that those parents were granted a settlement of nearly a million dollars.

  2. “How can the criminal justice system and law enforcement officers, hold high the banner of justice on one hand, but on the other, refuse to look at truth? How many ears must one law officer have before he can hear innocent people cry?”

    Law enforcement follow the rule of the coroner and medical examiner. It doesn’t matter how much evidence exists for a murder, until the coroner rules, there is NO investigation. – Raymond Zachry was poisoned. Still the coroner refuses to furnish all of the autopsy report to explain the redacted reports.

    there MUST be some oversight for careless and untrailed ME and CORONER. Until then – there will be more innocents in prison and murders walking free.

  3. Pingback: Daily Trial Coverage of HangBinLi ShakenBabySyndrome Case | Wrongful Convictions Blog

  4. I have written a book about our experience of a false allegation of Shaken Baby that nearly led to the removal of our children in the UK. The book “When Truth no longer Matters” details what happened and the eventual correct diagnosis for our son.
    I am working with Rioch Edwards-Brown, campaigner and founder of The 5%ers – a support group for wrongfully accused parents and we have set up an e-petition to try and get the UK Government to ensure there are better protocols to stop wrongful allegations and to stop abused children slipping through the net.
    Any support would be gratefully received and your can sign the e-petition here:
    Thank you!

  5. Pingback: Verdict in Hang Bin Li SBS Case Devastates Supporters | Wrongful Convictions Blog

  6. Pingback: Shaken Baby Syndrome – Where Are We? – A Reality Check | Wrongful Convictions Blog

  7. Pingback: Shaken Baby Syndrome ……. Progress for True Science? | Wrongful Convictions Blog

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