Sixteen convictions based on the Shaken Baby Syndrome have been overturned in the U.S. since 2001, including three last year, reports the Washington Post. In Illinois, a federal judge who freed a mother of two after nearly a decade in prison called the syndrome “more an article of faith than a proposition of science.” Despite the uncertainty, prosecutors are still using the diagnosis to help prove criminal cases beyond a “reasonable doubt” against hundreds of parents and caregivers.
“You can't necessarily prove [Shaken Baby Syndrome] one way or another — sort of like politics or religion,” said forensic pathologist Gregory Davis, chief medical examiner in Birmingham, Al., and the board chairman of the National Association of Medical Examiners. “Neither side can point to compelling evidence and say, 'We're right and the other side is wrong.' So instead, it goes to trial.” The Washington Post, in partnership with Northwestern University's Medill Justice Project, carried out the first systematic examination of dispositions in Shaken Baby cases since doctors started disputing the science behind the syndrome.