Posted By Dr. Mercola | February 28 2011
Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, said the following in an NPR interview:
“It used to be that the assumption was that every time you had evidence of the shaking — medical evidence — that you knew, you assumed that the baby would immediately stop breathing and go into a coma … Now doctors acknowledge … that in at least a few cases it’s possible for a child to remain conscious for some amount of time.”
This throws into question whether the last caretaker was always the abuser. In addition, says Bazelon, the symptoms that used to be considered an assurance of shaken-baby syndrome could possibly be caused by bleeding disorders or certain accidental falls.
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s taken so long for major media like NPR and the New York Times to question the blanket-diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome (SBS).
For too long, too many parents and child caretakers have been accused of murder or manslaughter by a system that assumes that any baby with retinal hemorrhages, bleeding around the brain, and/or brain swelling has been shaken.
Signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome Sometimes Lead to False Accusations
They call it the “triad,” and as the NPR and New York Times examples show, if your baby is limp and unresponsive – or dead – and exhibits even one of the triad symptoms, you may find yourself handcuffed and behind bars, and accused of killing your baby.
It’s a serious form of child abuse, and child protective services (CPS) have been put on notice through numerous state and federal laws that they are to report it immediately if they suspect that a baby has been shaken.
Other SBS injuries can include blood spots in the eyes, lethargy, semi-consciousness, seizures, vomiting, extreme irritability, bruises on the body, and broken bones. But even when none of these other symptoms are detected, it’s almost a given that once an SBS report is made, the suspect – usually a parent or a caretaker – is assumed guilty.
According to the National Shaken Baby Coalition (NSBC), as many as 1,500 babies a year are shaken by their parents, and either severely injured or killed.
It’s true that there are parents who shake their babies, like the Florida mother who was so obsessed with playing an online game that she admitted shaking her baby to death when the baby’s cries interrupted her.
But it’s also true that more and more parents are claiming that they are innocent, that they didn’t shake their babies, and that they could never do anything to hurt them.
Cries of Innocence Escalating
The cries of innocence have led to websites and blogs that question how SBS is defined, including The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic that fights for the rights of people who have been wrongly accused of a crime.
The New York Times tippy-toed into this area last year, with an opinion piece by Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor and former assistant district attorney who questioned how SBS is defined.
“Despite the shift in scientific consensus, debate about the legitimacy of the shaken baby syndrome diagnosis continues,” Tuerkheimer said.
“Some scientists point to studies using dummies modeled on the anatomy of infants as evidence that shaking cannot possibly generate sufficient force to cause the triad of symptoms — or that it could not do so without also causing injury to the infant’s neck or spinal cord.”
Citing instances of where science is eroding the medical basis of shaken baby syndrome, Tuerkheimer cautioned prosecutors, judges and juries to exercise greater skepticism when finding people guilty of shaking a baby.
“The triad of symptoms alone cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an infant has been fatally shaken,” Tuerkheimer said.
While neither Tuerkheimer nor the New York Times offered any ideas on what else could cause a baby to die unexpectedly with SBS-like symptoms, the fact that they are finally questioning the blanket diagnosis is a step in the right direction.
What Else Could Cause this Kind of Harm?
So if Shaken Baby Syndrome is a questionable diagnosis in these cases, what else could explain the symptoms that these babies die with?
The answer isn’t as hard to root out as some people might think.
Dr. David Ayoub is a clinical radiologist and physician whose work I admire, and whose expertise I often rely on. He also has extensive experience in identifying lesions caused by vitamin deficiencies such as rickets.
And vitamin D deficiency is a hidden problem that Dr. Ayoub has found that can cause bones in X-rays to appear as if they had been broken – and a sure diagnosis of abuse to the inexperienced eye.
But vitamin D deficiency is only one possible explanation for a child who has multiple injuries. Others include:
- Injury at birth can later appear as swelling on the brain, or bleeding on the brain
- Vaccines have known injuries that are acknowledged by the vaccine makers, and they include encephalopathy (brain damage), thrombocytopenia (bruising and bleeding on the brain, and/or hemorrhaging), and hyptonic-hyporesponsive episodes (muscle limpness and unresponsiveness) – all symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome!
Probably the most poignant example of this is the introduction of legislation in Oregon that was proposed because of a baby who was harmed by the hepatitis B vaccine.
- Vitamin deficiencies such as metabolic disorder can cause lethal symptoms if left untreated. Also, numerous studies have also shown that deficiencies in vitamin C, D, and K can result in conditions that mimic SBS, including the appearance of broken bones in an X-ray!
- Genetic disorders such as Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as “Brittle Bone Disease” or “Lobstein Syndrome,” can cause similar symptoms.
- Bleeding disorders such as coagulopathy can cause swelling and bleeding on the brain if left untreated.
- High bilirubin levels can also be suspected.
- Even heparin doses given when a baby’s body is being held as an organ donor can cause internal swelling and bleeding.
- Non-abuse injuries, including falls from a very short distance, can cause bleeding on the brain.
Shaken Baby Syndrome has Become an Industry
It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote about the topic of Shaken Baby Syndrome, and how it’s become an industry of its own, with government funding that actually encourages CPS to label parents as abusers.
It is an industry that permeates the legal system, from judges to lawyers to the expert witnesses who testify on behalf – or against – an accused parent in a shaken baby case.
“It’s an idea that has been added to and added to, but does not stand to science,” said Dr. Edward Yazbak, a physician who has devoted the past 10 years to studying the issue and testifying as an expert witness on behalf of parents he believes are innocent of this crime.
“This shaken baby business has come out of nowhere and become an epidemic, and it’s the other side that’s making money – the child protective services, the funding, the grants that all these people get.
“It’s obviously a very popular and passionate thing with them. But they’re literally convicting people before they’re even accused. It’s the only crime in the world like this, and many of these parents are perfectly innocent.”
You might think I’m overdoing it by repeating Dr. Yazbak’s thoughts here, or you might even think that I’m going off on a tangent with too many shaken baby stories lately. But the truth is, there are too many parents who all of a sudden are being faced with these charges.
And the truth is that there are so many things that could mimic Shaken Baby Syndrome, that it’s very possible that you or someone you known might be the next innocent person to be accused.
A Safe, Healthy Baby is Everyone’s Goal
I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want the best for their baby, and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m negating the possibility that some parents would ever harm their children – because I know they do. What’s important here is honesty. It’s time that CPS and attorneys and prosecutors and judges – and juries – get honest with the way these cases are handled.
It’s time to stop judging a person guilty from the ill-defined and unscientific definition that SBS has come to be.
My message to parents and caretakers is to read these articles and the links I’ve provided, and to be aware of all the symptoms that could mimic SBS, so that if something like this happens, you’ll know how to protect yourself.
And my message to investigators is instead of assuming that a baby’s been deliberately harmed, check for vitamin deficiencies. Check to see if a vaccine that has these types of symptoms as side effects might have been given to the child recently.
Check to see whether the child recently had a fall, even a small one.
And instead of automatically accusing a parent or caretaker of murder, make sure that the checklist is complete before the accusation is made.
Sunday February 27,2011
By Lucy Johnston, Health Editor
FRESH questions have been raised over convictions for “shaken baby syndrome” after a ground-breaking study showed how similar brain symptoms can occur naturally.
Scores of parents have been prosecuted and many jailed for shaking their babies to death.
About 250 cases of shaken baby syndrome go to the courts in Britain every year.
But leading child pathologists found that two of the three brain injuries used to diagnose abuse, known as the triad, occur in cases where abuse can be discounted.
The injuries are bleeding on the brain, bleeding in the eye and swelling of brain tissue.
Dr Marta Cohen, from Sheffield Children’s Hospital, and Dr Irene Scheimberg, from the Royal London Hospital, say their evidence means prosecutors need more than brain bleeding to convict and that other signs of abuse ought to be present for a guilty verdict to be returned.
The doctors looked at 55 babies who had died of brain haemorrhages before or shortly after birth, many of whom showed no evidence of abuse because they were in hospital.
All the dead babies had two of the symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome.
Dr Cohen and Dr Scheimberg concluded that many of these symptoms are common in newborns and could be caused by a traumatic birth or other unknown factors.
Dr Scheimberg said: “You can’t conclusively say that if a baby has the so-called triad it has been shaken. We have shown that haemorrhage is quite common in newborns.”
The doctors say in their paper, published in the journal Experimental Clinical Pathology, that many brain bleeds in the first weeks of life stop without any signs of ill health.
In some children, however, the bleeding can get worse and they show symptoms that might be mistaken for shaken baby syndrome.
The triad theory came to public attention in 1998 in the US trial of British au pair Louise Woodward, convicted of killing baby Matthew Eappen.
The research follows cases of mothers Angela Cannings, Sally Clark and Trupti Patel, who were all eventually cleared in cases that discredited medical experts.
Suzanne Holdsworth, 40, a babysitter jailed for life for battering a two-year-old boy to death, was cleared two years ago. The mother of two served three years behind bars before the Appeal Court ruled her conviction unsafe.
Bill Bache, a solicitor who has helped defend accused parents, said: “It is a long held belief that the triad of symptoms is a pointer to shaken baby syndrome. This research highlights the fact that this is only a theory which could be wrong.”
Read more: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/231459/New-doubts-on-shaken-baby-abuse-verdictsNew-doubts-on-shaken-baby-abuse-verdicts#ixzz1F7ylbK4W
Read more: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/231459/New-doubts-on-shaken-baby-abuse-verdictsNew-doubts-on-shaken-baby-abuse-verdicts#ixzz1F7ye6E00
A new investigation into Shaken Baby Syndrome should be applauded, says James Le Fanu.
By James Le Fanu 7:00AM GMT 21 Feb 2011
The fearful prospect for parents of taking their child to hospital only to be accused of having caused their injuries should have receded – thanks to the efforts of a formidable trio of female pathologists. Their scientific investigations have challenged the allegation, vigorously promoted by the police and prominent paediatricians, that a particular pattern of injuries including bleeding behind the eye and in the skull are ‘characteristic’ of abusive Shaken Baby Syndrome [SBS]. Their studies have confirmed parental accounts of how a range of domestic misfortunes involving babies, including falling from a bed or sofa and choking, can give rise to a similar pattern of bleeding. The SBS protagonists have, as a result, failed to secure convictions in a series of high profile cases. This has prompted, as reported in the radio documentary programme File on Four last week, a switch in tactics seeking to undermine the professional reputation of the defence experts with complaints to the General Medical Council and similar bodies. These have been rebuffed, but clearly the hazard for innocent parents of being dragged through the courts remains.
15 February 2011
Each year, around 250 parents and carers are accused of killing or injuring children by shaking them or inflicting some other form of head injury. But an acrimonious scientific debate over the theory behind so-called Shaken Baby Syndrome, has turned toxic among the expert witnesses whose evidence is so critical in determining guilt or innocence. Andrew Hosken examines claims of a campaign of dirty tricks to discredit those who question the orthodoxy and hears calls from one of the country’s leading pathologists for an inquiry.
BBC File on 4
February 9, 2011
For years, cases involving shaken-baby syndrome were often open-and-shut — with the last person to care for the child labeled the abuser. But Slate editor Emily Bazelon reports that a growing number of doctors say the syndrome could have alternate explanations.
To listen to the radio interview see link:
NEAL CONAN, host:
In 1993, forensic pathologist Robert Huntington testified that 7-month-old Natalie Beard showed the characteristic symptoms of a shaken-baby, and given the timing, her caregiver, Audrey Edmunds, had to be responsible for her death.
Ten years later, Huntington said in a retrial, he was no longer comfortable with that verdict, that other things could explain the subdural bleeding, retinal hemorrhaging and brain swelling, and that new research also throws doubt on the timing of the injury.
In last week’s edition of The New York Times Magazine, senior Slate editor Emily Bazelon reported that shaken-baby cases may no longer be as clear cut as previously believed, and that a fierce debate is underway.
Pediatricians, health care workers, what do you do when you suspect shaken-baby syndrome? 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. You could also join the conversation on our website. That’s at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Emily Bazelon is senior editor at Slate, also a Truman Capote law and media fellow at Yale Law School, and joins us now from a studio in North Haven, Connecticut.
Nice to have you with us today.
Ms. EMILY BAZELON (Senior Editor, Slate): Thanks so much for having me.
CONAN: And the cases you talk about in your piece, these women who’ve been exonerated after serving time, what’s changed in the way that we now understand shaken-baby syndrome?
Ms. BAZELON: One of the things that’s changed, it relates to Robert Huntington’s testimony as you were just talking about, and that is how definitive doctors can be about timing and injury. It used to be that the assumption was that every time you had evidence of the shaking – medical evidence – that you knew, you assumed that the baby would immediately stop breathing and go into a coma. And that meant that the last person taking care of the baby was necessarily the guilty party.
Now doctors acknowledged that there are some cases – and there’s a debate about how rare this is – but that in at least a few cases it’s possible for a child to remain conscious for some amount of time. Not to be totally normal, necessarily, but to be sleepy or fussy or not eating regularly, as opposed to immediately unconscious.
CONAN: And there’s also – your article talks about that those three symptoms, subdural bleeding, retinal hemorrhaging, brain swelling – if those three were present even without bruises or broken bones or other injuries evident, doctors still said that used to be solid evidence of shaken baby.
Ms. BAZELON: Doctors used to say that that had to be shaking, that it was -there was only one explanation. And now we know – and again, there is a big debate about how rare this is. But now we know there are possible alternate causes of those symptoms. There are certain bleeding disorders that cause those symptoms. Some doctors, though not all – many dispute this – but some doctors think that it’s possible for certain accidental falls to cause those symptoms.
And so this is really the debate. It is a debate about, in criminal court, where, if we’re going to convict someone, then the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt, whether there’s always that level of certainty in these criminal cases.
CONAN: Well, how many of these cases come up every year?
Ms. BAZELON: So there are between 12 and 14 hundred cases of children attributed to abusive head injury every year. And we’re talking about a small subset of those cases in which they go to court – they are criminal charges -and the only medical evidence of abuse are these internal injuries that you described. And so no one – the numbers are a little fuzzy. But the best estimates I was getting were that there are between 100 and 150 cases a year in this category.
CONAN: And this case goes back to, I guess, the most famous shaken baby case, and that was – involved the English au pair Louise Woodward, who was put on trial – and I guess a celebrated trial – about 20 years ago.
Ms. BAZELON: That’s right. This is 1998. Louise Woodward was a 19-year-old British au pair. She was taking care of a baby who collapsed in her care. This child wasn’t – did not simply have internal bleeding and swelling. He also had a skull fracture. And one of the big debates at the trial was whether that skull fracture was old or whether it has been inflicted, you know, in the few hours before he died, when he was in Louise Woodward’s care.
CONAN: And the verdict in that case was guilty. Yet Louise Woodward was, well, dismissed with time served.
Ms. BAZELON: That’s right. The jury believed the prosecution’s experts, who said essentially that the medical evidence meant that Woodward must have abused this child, given that she was his caregiver before his death. But the judge, without explaining why – trial judges don’t have to necessarily give reasons -he reduced the charges to involuntary manslaughter and then let her go for time served.
CONAN: And the testimony in that case by Barry Scheck, who’s since become better known as one of the principals in the Innocence Project, but his testimony seemed, you say, to lay the groundwork for doubts that have since sprung up.
Ms. BAZELON: Right. Well, Scheck was the lawyer in that case, and then there were a bunch of experts who were testifying on both sides, and Scheck’s strategy in that case, to really bring in doctors who had an alternate explanation, at least for the timing of the baby’s injuries – this was the first big courtroom battle over shaken baby syndrome.
CONAN: And given the doubts that had been thrown up, are the convictions that have occurred in other cases being reconsidered?
Ms. BAZELON: Right. Exactly. Then you have Audrey Edmunds’ case. We were talking about her earlier. She was running a small little day care inside her house and a baby died in her care. When she went on trial in 1996, no one really questioned the evidence about the timing. And so since Audrey Edmunds had been the baby’s caregiver and she had these – the baby had these injuries, Edmunds was convicted.
Then, a decade later, she was having a hearing about whether she would deserve a new trial or not. And Robert Huntington, the pathologist who had testified at the first trial, came back and said that he had personally observed a child with subdural and retinal bleeding who had been lucid for a period before collapsing, and that made him go back and look at the literature. And he no longer felt confident about timing that child’s injuries.
And based on that, the Wisconsin Appeals Court said, you know, there’s really fierce disagreement now among doctors about this aspect of this case, and as a result we are going to grant Audrey Edmunds a new trial. The prosecutors then decided to drop the charges against her, and she was released after serving nearly 12 years in prison.
CONAN: And does this suggest that someone else may have been responsible, at least in some cases, or that there are these other – well, in some cases, difficult births may have been responsible?
Ms. BAZELON: Well, the first possibility is certainly there. It is certainly possible that most of these children were, in fact, abused and what we just don’t know with enough certainty is who did it. Then there are other cases in which it’s possible that there are alternate explanations for these injuries that we don’t fully understand now and that more research really needs to be done to figure out how probable that is or isn’t.
CONAN: We’re talking with Emily Bazelon, who wrote “Shaken-Baby Syndrome Faces New Questions in Courts” for last week’s New York Times Magazine.
You can find a link to that article on our website. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. And you’re listening to TALK OF THE NATION, which is coming to you from NPR News.
And let’s get a caller on the line. This is Cynthia, Cynthia with us from Phoenix.
CYNTHIA (Caller): Yes. I would just like to thank Ms. Bazelon for her article and bringing this to the front of the public. I used to be an attorney. I’m actually no longer an attorney, but about 10 years ago I represented a woman who was charged with shaken baby. She was convicted on a second degree – excuse me, on a manslaughter. She had been tried, and prosecution wanted to go for, actually, a first degree murder on this charge. That – at the time England (technical difficulties)…
CONAN: We’re having troubles. Cynthia, somebody is trying to dial on your phone.
CYNTHIA: Oh, dear.
CONAN: Yes. I think it’s better now. They may have realized it.
CYNTHIA: All right. England, you know, 10 years ago was throwing out all of their cases in which parents had been relieved of their children – their children taken away, because of the medical evidence that was coming out on that side of the world. And I think it’s fantastic that the American Medical Society is finally catching up with what science has been showing on there’s like 2,000 articles written by medical professionals in other countries, in Sweden, in Germany, in Great Britain, that have always been saying this. It’s -I just think it’s wonderful that the American side is finally taking care of that.
CONAN: Cynthia, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
CYNTHIA: Thank you.
CONAN: Let’s see if we can go next to – this is Marilyn. And Marilyn is on the line from Vancouver in Canada.
Ms. MARILYN BARR (Executive Director, National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome): Yes. I’m calling – I’m out of the country now, but I’m the executive director of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. I completely disagree with the last caller, that the mainstream scientists in other countries feel this way. And I think it’s really important that the public knows that shaken baby syndrome is real and recognized public health problem.
We resented that the article indicated that there were all kinds of people sitting in prisons that had been wrongfully convicted, although we feel like everyone else, that we would not want anyone wrongfully convicted. But it’s important to know that mainstream scientists, medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, National Association of Medical Examiners, the Academy of Ophthalmology, have all published statements and recognized shaken baby syndrome.
I also think it’s important for the public to know that every day teams of physicians make very hard decisions in these cases to determine if this injured child is a result of abuse. Let me tell you who these teams are. They’re the teams of pediatric radiologists, neurosurgeons and pediatricians who work at your local children’s hospitals. These are the doctors that are – they’re not in some child abuse clinic looking for some abuse. The doctors agonize over these decisions, to say it might be abuse. And they look at other possible explanations, including mimics. In many of these cases there’s other signs of physical abuse, and medical examiners will tell you that when they’re doing autopsies they find numerous broken bones and bruises over the body of a dead baby. But it’s the head injury that kills the baby.
CONAN: Marilyn, we wanted to give Emily Bazelon a chance to respond.
Ms. BAZELON: Well, I think this is exactly the intention the intention(ph) here. And I’m so glad you called, because it is enormously important for doctors to investigate these kinds of symptoms. And you’re right, much of the time there is other medical evidence of a history of abuse. I was trying to pinpoint a smaller number of cases in which there is no such other medical evidence and in which we may be possibly too ready to convict people. And it seems to me that those adults also have rights and a kind of, you know, an importance in this equation as well as all the children who – yes, it is true, doctors are trying so hard to protect in doing important work in trying to do that.
CONAN: And, Emily Bazelon, if I read your article correctly, you argued that about half the shaken baby cases, that only these internal injury symptoms exist, to suggest that it happened.
Ms. BAZELON: Well, that’s in the – the cases that go – that are prosecuted. There are about 200 a year. And of those cases, between half and three quarters, according to the prosecutors I talked to, there is only medical evidence from the internal bleeding and the brain swelling as opposed to things like fractures and bruises, which obviously that’s a whole different scenario for both doctors and for the legal system.
CONAN: But not to argue that there is no such as shaken baby syndrome, clearly…
Ms. BAZELON: Absolutely, no. That is not the point I want people to take from my piece.
Ms. BARR: Well, it was the point, Emily, that you gave of – the title of it was a flawed diagnosis, and so that certainly lends to the situation that there’s this whole bulk of physicians and people who were incorrectly diagnosing this. And I just think that that impression is not only completely wrong but very, very dangerous. And as you know, you talk to many of the top people in world, actually, and they spend hours and hours being interviewed by you. But the representation in the article was more representative of the few, I’d say 10 or so, of the people – the witnesses that are testifying in these cases over and over again in every city…
CONAN: And Marilyn…
Ms. BARR: …who are paid a high price to do so.
CONAN: And Marilyn, I don’t want to break you off again, but we just have a very few seconds left. And I want to give Emily a chance to respond.
Ms. BAZELON: Well, it’s true that some witnesses for the defense make money doing so. It is also true that some witnesses for the prosecution make money. And I think in the end this really has to be a debate that is about the science, what the research does and doesn’t show, and what we could do to complete that picture.
CONAN: Marilyn, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate your time.
Ms. BARR: Emily Bazelon, thank you very much for being with us today.
Ms. BAZELON: Thanks so much for having me.
CONAN: Senior Slate editor Emily Bazelon joined us from a studio in North Haven, Connecticut. You can find a link to her New York Times Magazine piece at our website. Go to npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Tomorrow – well, there’ll be another program tomorrow. This is NPR News.
New Trial Ordered for Man Convicted in 1998 Shaken Baby Case Attorneys Claim New Evidence Proves Innocence
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office agreed this morning to a new trial for a man convicted in 1998 murder of his then-girlfriend’s child.
Superior Court Judge Glenn Davis vacated Armando Castillo’s conviction per the agreement and ordered a new trial as well as a status hearing to be held on February 16, to determine whether to release Castillo on bond.
Castillo has been in prison since 1998. Prior to going to prison, Castillo lived with his then-girlfriend, Clara Yates, and babysat her child, Steve Young Jr. According to court records filed by the Arizona Justice Project, Yates trusted Castillo with her son because he had three children of his own from another relationship.
On June 13, 1998, Yates left her son with Castillo while she went to work. When she returned, Castillo left to pick up his children so they could go swimming in their pool. Later that evening, Yates went to check on her son and found that he had “snot” coming out of his nose. Yates thought he was choking on his own vomit, and when she picked him up, he gasped and went unconscious.
Paramedics arrived a short while later and found that his airway was full of vomit. He was taken to the hospital and placed in intensive care. He died the next day.
During his autopsy, medical examiner Dr. Mark Fischione noted the presence of a subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhages — bleeding in the brain and eyes.
Dr. Kay Rauth-Farley, a child abuse specialist, was called by Phoenix police about the case, and concluded that Steven had been shaken, leading to his death.
Because shaken baby syndrome, or SDS, was believed at the time to result in immediate loss of consciousness, the police focused their investigation on the two people who had been with Young Jr. on that day: Yates and Castillo.
Castillo denied harming the child and passed two lie detector tests to that effect, but he was nevertheless charged with the crime. Fischione and Farley testified at trial that the bleeding was a sure-sign of abuse and Castillo was convicted, according to court records.
Shaken baby-syndrome had its heyday as a medical theory in the 1990s, and while it has not been entirely discredited it has become quite controversial in recent years. Last summer, New Times reported on the case of Lisa Randall, a daycare operator who was charged with murder in a similar case that was dismissed.
In 2007, Castillo learned that there was new debate over SBS. He sent the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s records in the case of Steven Young Jr. to a medical pathologist who concluded in 2008 that Steve Young Jr. did not die from SBS. From there, he contacted the Arizona Justice Project, which took his case.
Last April, project attorneys Stephen Leshner and Larry Hammond filed a petition for post-conviction relief requesting an evidentiary hearing for a new trial.
In their brief, they argued that Castillo’s original attorney provided deficient counsel by not disputing the cause of death, that new medical research exists to cast doubt on SBS as the cause of death in this case, and that the jury, “armed with a different timeline” and “new evidence” that confirms “an older abdominal injury” would have been fatal, “probably would not have found Armando Castillo guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In their petition, Leshner and Hammond point out that Steve Young Jr. had been sick in the days leading up to his collapse. He was not eating, had a fever, and was vomiting, leading them to think he had the flu. A series of strange bruises had begun to appear on his body, most notably on his abdomen.
According to court records, Steve Young Jr.’s father, Steve Young Sr., had not seen his son regularly after breaking up with Yates. That changed in April 1998, when he began seeing his son regularly. Steve Sr. watched his son from June 1-3 and 8-10. Around June 7, Yates noticed that Young Jr. had “unexplained” bruises on his abdomen and scrotum.
The brief recounts an incident where Castillo asked Young Jr. about his injuries and he said, “Owee, belly, Kelly,” which Castillo took to mean Young’s girlfriend.
“Just about two weeks before he died, Steven got a black eye. It was big and covered a good portion of his face, and Steve Sr. claimed it was caused by a tire swing; but Armando said when he asked Steven Jr. how it happened, Steven said, ‘Owee, football, daddy,’” the brief states
The point in the petition is not that Clara Yates or Steve Young Sr. killed Steve Young Jr., but that Young Jr. did not die as a result of SBS and that other “leads” were present to investigators.
The Justice Project cites three experts in its brief to support its argument that Young Jr. did not die of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
The first is Dr. Janice Ophoven, assistant medical examiner for St. Louis County, Minnesota, who testifies that the diagnosis of SBS was not “scientifically sound.”
Pediatric Neuroradiologist Dr. Patrick Barnes testified that the injuries sustained by Young Jr. were 3-7 days older than prosecutors believed, and that Young Jr.’s death was likely caused by oxygen deprivation rather than blunt trauma.
Finally, Dr. Patrick Hannon, a biomechanics expert, testified that the description of the child’s brain given to the jury was “inaccurate,” and argued that the lack of grip marks or damage to the spine indicated the baby had not been shaken. He claims that the likely cause of death was a blow to the abdomen that had left bruising.
Castillo was on the verge of tears throughout today’s hearing. He is a thin man with short and neat hair, who spent much of the hearing bent in prayer. When the judge walked in, he took a deep breath that could be heard in the back of the courtroom.
His parents, wife, uncles, and a good friend from Colorado came to the hearing to show their support, along with most of the Justice Project staff.
Armando Castillo’s attorneys argue that he should be released on his own recognizance until trial, and noted that he was not a flight risk because his family had pledged their support, he has already served much of his sentence, and has a job lined up for him with local attorney Guy Brown.
Prosecutors disagree, noting that the charges – second-degree murder and child abuse – are serious, and that he should be released only on bond. The judge ordered a pretrial services hearing for next week to determine bond. From there, his trial is expected to begin within the next sixty days.
Internationally renowned natural health physician and Mercola.com founder Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. F. Edward Yazbak discuss the frequency of accusations of shaken baby syndrome.
By Andrew Hosken
Three leading pathologists have accused the Metropolitan Police of attempting to discredit them as expert witnesses in so-called Shaken Baby court cases.
About 250 Non-Accidental Head Injury (NAHI) cases go to court every year, with the outcome often relying on a expert testimony from pathologists.
The Royal College of Pathologists has called for an inquiry into the claims.
Responding to the allegations, the Met said the force was “completely committed to the judicial process”.
The scientific debate over NAHI has grown increasingly acrimonious over the past 10 years.
At first it was played out in select gatherings of pathologists before ending up in courtrooms and inquests up and down the country.
That debate turned toxic, with one side accusing the other of proselytising suspect scientific theories.
Now, senior consultant pathologists have accused the Metropolitan Police and others of an orchestrated strategy to discredit them as expert witnesses for parents and carers accused of murdering their children.
Dr Waney Squier, Dr Irene Scheimberg and Dr Marta Cohen say their evidence is based on a speech made by Detective Inspector Colin Welsh, a lead investigator with the Met’s Child Abuse Investigation Command.
The BBC has obtained a version of the speech made at the 11th International Shaken Baby conference in Atlanta, September 2010.
In this speech, DI Welsh referred to a meeting in 2008 attended by representatives of the police, medical experts and CPS officials at which the “impact and effect of contradictory expert evidence” was discussed. The Met has confirmed the meeting took place but said it was standard procedure following an acquittal in a court case.
According to a note by a Seattle-based lawyer called Heather Kirkwood, DI Welsh talked about the failure of a number of high profile Shaken Baby prosecutions and stated the number one problem as “defence expert testimony”.
He suggested as tactics to question everything about them – qualifications, employment history, testimony research papers presented by these experts, and even going to their expert bodies “to see if we turn up anything”.
DI Welsh is also reported to have referred to “judicial inexperience”, using the term “so deal with back door” apparently in reference to relaying concern to judges about expert witnesses.
A police spokesman confirmed that DI Welsh had given the speech but added that The Metropolitan Police Service “is completely committed to the judicial process and would never seek to improperly influence it”.
The pathologists, however, say they were all the subject of inquiries by outside bodies initiated by the Metropolitan Police and others.
Dr Squier, who works at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, was the subject of two separate inquiries last year.
The Human Tissue Authority investigated a complaint that Dr Squier may have retained human tissue, a criminal act if true. The accusation was found to be without foundation.
The complainant was identified as an officer with the Met.
DI Welsh appeared as an “interested party” in a second inquiry by the General Medical Council into Dr Squier and Dr Cohen.
The GMC inquiries resulted in both doctors being brought before emergency Interim Orders Panels, but proved inconclusive.
The Human Tissue Authority also conducted an inquiry into Dr Scheimberg following a complaint from a colleague based at Great Ormond Street Hospital. She was also cleared.
Professor Tony Risdon often acts for prosecution teams and made his complaint about Dr Scheimberg based on information from a third party but which he personally could not verify. He declined to comment when approached by the BBC.
Dr Squier defends the evidence she gives, saying a court “should be able to hear evidence for both prosecution and for a defence and that anybody who has a valid and sincere opinion should be given the opportunity to express that opinion in court”.
“And it appears to me that there has been an attempt to remove from the courts all of those people who are willing to challenge the mainstream hypothesis, even if those opinions are sincerely held and are based on a lot of day-to-day experience and are based on a thorough grounding in the current evidence available in the scientific literature.”
A spokesman said the Metropolitan Police Service had registered concerns “about certain practices of a doctor in December 2009″ but declined to comment on the reasons.
“We are aware of a report registered by the National Policing Improvement Agency with the General Medical Council regarding two doctors. The MPS has co-operated with a request from the GMC in June 2010 to provide any relevant information,” the spokesman added.
Professor Peter Furness, President of the Royal College of Pathologists, expressed concern about the allegations of a campaign.
“The allegations that there has been a systematic attempt to intimidate people from presenting their honestly held views to a court should be investigated,” he says.
“I would normally suggest that should be investigated by the police, in this case at least some of the allegations it appears the police have been involved in it.
“There are processes for conducting investigations into police activity. It sounds to me from what I’ve been told that those mechanisms should probably be used.
“My concerns about this are as a private citizen not as president of the Royal College of Pathologists. I think anybody who feels the process of justice is being illegitimately subverted ought to feel concerned and ought to try to do something about it.”
The BBC approached a significant number of pathologists who act for prosecution teams. They all declined a request for an interview, some saying they too had been the subject of threats and complaints.
Watch the BBC news report here:
Also listen to the BBC report here:
Lisa Blakemore Brown, Psychologist writes:
I am not at all surprised by this story on the Metropolitan Police accused of a ‘campaign’ against shaken baby witnesses published by the BBC because similar tactics have been used against me for over a decade now. As Dr Wayne Squier says in this interview, those targeted were “all of those people who are willing to challenge the mainstream opinion” within both the criminal and the family court system. In my case I challenged Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP) and in no time at all was targeted by various shady characters, my professional body The British Psychological Society used in the process of trying to discredit me over many, many years affecting my career, my reputation and my family. I lost my home paying for lawyers to defend myself against staggeringly obvious vexatious allegations. Other things were interfered with as well in a sort of spatter gun approach.
I know only too well that as MSBP/SBS allegations have embedded themselves into our entire system and into popular culture that the “number one problem” for the so called Experts in MSBP and SBS has been “defence expert testimony” which challenged their rigid positions. It is sad to see that even the Police have allowed themselves to be drawn into all this, but I do know that to be true in some key cases.
When I made the same sort of claims as the pathologists are now making, the British Psychological Society decided to say I was paranoid and a helpful Psychiatrist agreed without ever seeing me. The tactics referred to by DI Welsh including going by the “back door” – relaying concern to Judges – and going to expert bodies “to see if we turn up anything” when repeated by those targeted, of course sound unbelievable. The helpful Psychiatrist suggested that everyone seemed to be “out to do her down” which he interpreted as paranoia. He did also say that “if it was true it would be an incredible story”. It is. All of it. Maybe finally someone will look into it all and restore justice to our system for the sake of the tragic children and their falsely accused families.
For more on Lisa Blakemore Brown by Journalist Christina England please see:
One further note:
“At the last moment the scheduled radio program was cancelled with no explanation. This certainly raises concerning questions….”
We are pleased to announce our first E.B.M.S.I. conference to be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The E.B.M.S.I. conference is set for August 4th, 5th and 6th.
The E.B.M.S.I. conference will focus on various levels of expertise:
- evidence based medicine
- medical differential diagnosis in cases of suspected child abuse,
- establishing the standards and requirements for a medical expert’s defense witness,
- legal challenges surrounding defending those innocent but accused of criminal acts relating to child abuse and the challenges of defense in family court related issues,
- the standards of practice and guidelines for child protection investigations and process and,
- the failure of the legal systems to protect the innocent.
We will be offering a well-rounded spectrum of professionals:
Key Note Speaker
Ms. Christina England
UK Journalist with a HND in Media and Journalism
Christina was born and educated in London, U.K. She left school to work in a children’s library, specializing in story telling and book buying. In 1978 Christina changed her career path to dedicate her time to caring for the elderly and was awarded the title of Care Giver of the Year for her work with the elderly in 1980.
After dedicating much of her spare time helping disabled children in a special school, she then worked in a respite unit in a leading teaching hospital.
In 1990 Christina adopted the first of two disabled boys, both with challenging behavior, complex disabilities, and medical needs. In 1999 she was accused of Munchausen by Proxy after many failed attempts to get the boys’ complex needs met. Finally, she was cleared of all accusations after an independent psychologist gave both boys the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD as part of a complex tapestry of disorders. During the assessments it was discovered through the foster care diaries that the eldest boy had reacted adversely to the MMR vaccine.
After taking A Level in Psychology and a BTEC in Learning Disabilities Ms. England then spent many years researching vaccines and adverse reactions. She went on to gain an HND in journalism and media and is currently writing for the American Chronicle, the Weekly Blitz and Vaccination Truth on immunization safety and efficacy.
England’s main area of expertise is in researching the areas surrounding false allegations of child abuse. Her work is now read internationally and has been translated into many languages. England has been a guest on Holy Hormones Honey – The Greatest Story Never Told! on KRFC FM 88.9 in, Colorado. She speaks at seminars worldwide and has been invited to speak in London and Canada in 2011.
Topic: False Labels Affect Real Families And Real Lives
Dr. John Plunkett
Anatomic Pathology & Clinical Pathology, Forensic Pathology from Hastings, MN
John Jerome Plunkett was born in St. Paul and lived first in Highland Park and then in the middle- and working-class Midway neighborhood. His father was a lawyer who spent almost his entire career as a Ramsey County District Judge. His uncles were also attorneys, and his brothers and cousins went into the field as well. “I grew up with a real love for the law,” Plunkett acknowledges. But while completing a bachelor’s degree in history and chemistry at the University of Minnesota, he found himself drawn to medicine instead.
After earning a medical degree in 1972, he realized he was interested most of all in asking certain types of questions about patient cases, which led him to pathology and “the most scientific part of medicine.” After an internship and pathology residency at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center (later to become Regions Hospital), he completed a forensic fellowship at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. His plan was to be “a general pathologist and a medical educator first and a forensic pathologist second.”
Topic: The differential diagnosis for subdural hemorrhage and retinal hemorrhage in children under the age of two.
Dr. John Galaznik
Pediatrician MD Alabama
John Galaznik is a board certified pediatrician from Texas. After his pediatric residency at the University of Utah, he served as a pediatrician in the USAF at Ramtein AFB, Germany. While at Ramstein, he and his wife adopted a special needs child through the military system. It was alleged that this infant had been the victim of physical abuse while in foster care pending adoption, when multiple fractures in various stages of healing were discovered at the time of adoption. Through the early years of this experience, they experienced firsthand the worry and concern over potential long term brain damage that can arise from alleged trauma to infants.
After leaving the military, Dr. Galaznik’s clinical work has been at the University of Alabama Student Health Center, providing primary medical care to college students.
In 1999, he served on the jury in a case involving a child’s death. After that experience, he decided that the issues surrounding cases of alleged physical abuse of infants and small children was an area that interested him. For the last 10 years, he has spent at least half of his professional time and most of my intellectual energy educating himself on the issues involved in cases of alleged physical abuse of infants and small children. Through attendance at meetings, reading the current literature, participating in research, interacting with colleagues working in the field, and actively reviewing and consulting on civil and criminal cases, he has developed expertise in this area.
He has actively consulted on more than 150 cases of alleged physical abuse of infants and toddlers.
He has offered expert testimony in both civil (family court) and criminal proceedings and he has been recognized as an expert in a number of states and by the US Military.
Topic: The evolution of the AAP COCAN Position Statements from 2001 through the present
Dr. Horace B. Gardner
Opthalmologist, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Horace B Gardner, MD, is a retired ophthalmologist with a strong background in physics and mathematics. While in the military, he was tasked with studying ocular trauma. This led to his interest and involvement with the form of ocular trauma presumed to occur in child abuse. He has published and lectured nationally and internationally concerning the limited science in this controversial area.
Title: Shaken Baby: A syndrome that never was, never will be and never should have been.
Sub Title: How ophthalmology contributed to a theory that has affected thousands.
The eye findings in presumed shaken baby syndrome will be chronicled from their first mention until the present, showing how misinformation has shaped a debate that has damaged thousands of lives. Examples of eye findings from non-abusive causes will be presented, illustrating the non-specific nature of these findings. The two primary mechanisms for the production of these eye findings, the “mechanical” or shaking mechanism and the “hydraulic” or pressure mechanism, will be compared and contrasted.
Dr. Patrick Barnes
Pediatric Radiologist Palo Alto, CA
Current Research Interests
Advanced imaging, including magnetic resonance imaging, of injury to the developing central nervous system; including fetal, neonatal, infant and young child; and, including nonaccidental injury (e.g. child abuse).
- Board Certification: Diagnostic Radiology, American Board of Radiology (1977)
- Board Certification: Neuroradiology, American Board of Radiology (1995)
- Fellowship: Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School MA (1977)
- Residency: University Hospital and O.U. Health Sciences Center CA (1976)
- Medical Education: University of Oklahoma OK (1973)
- MD, University of Oklahoma Medicine (1973)
- Diagnostic Radiology
- Pediatric Neuroradiology
- Pediatric Radiology
Professor – Med Center Line, Radiology – Pediatric Radiology
Topic: Medical Imaging In Brain Trauma and Metabolic Bone Disease
Dr. Harold Buttram
MD, FAACP Quakertown, PA
In January 2009 Dr. Buttram retired from medical practice after 50 years of work in the fields of family practice and environmental medicine. In the latter years of practice he treated many children with autism and related disorders as a referral physician for the Autism Research Institute (ARI). At one of the ARI conferences in the 1990s, Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., founding director of ARI, announced that in over half of the autistic children seen by ARI referral physicians, formerly normal children had abruptly and dramatically regressed into autism in a time-related fashion following the MMR vaccine. On learning this, Dr. Buttram checked on his own computerized medical records and found similar patterns in the autistic children in his practice.
This also coincided with a time period in which Dr. Buttram had become involved as a defense witness in Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) cases, so that he began checking for a time-based relationship between symptoms and radiological findings of subdural (brain) hemorrhages (on which almost all charges of SBS were based) and routine vaccinations. In most instances, such a relationship was clearly evident. However, in those early years there was little proof that would stand up in court, so that it was usually wise to turn to other medical issues for defense.
This has now dramatically changed. In 2007 a study involving 239 preterm infants was performed in which C-Reactive Protein blood tests (a standard blood test marker for inflammation) was performed on 239 preterm infants who received either a single vaccine or mixed vaccines in a pediatric intensive care unit (Pourcyrous et al. Journal Pediatrics, 2007). The first definitive study of its kind, it provided a unified theory of adverse vaccine reactions and their pathogenesis, as reviewed in this text.
Dr. Chris Van Ee
Impact biomechanics research to identify mechanisms of injury with application to product safety and design. Injury causation is investigated using a combination of computational modeling, laboratory experimental studies, and investigations of real world accidents to define human kinematics, injury mechanisms, interactions with product components and effectiveness of intervention strategies. Specific areas of focus include automotive and marine accidents, child safety, contact sports injuries; industrial machine accidents, and small power hand tool injury investigations.
Topic: Methods and Validation of Biomechanical Reconstruction of Infant Injury
Dr. Viera Scheibner
Viera was born in 1935 in Bratislava, Slovakia (former Czechoslovakia) and educated at Jan Masaryk University in Brno and the Comenius University in Bratisolava. She first studied medicine but midstream changed to natural sciences between 1953 and 1958. In 1964, she was awarded doctorate in Natural Sciences (RNDR). She lectured and conducted research in micropalaeontology at the Comenius University and progressed to associate professor (Docent) before emigrating with her family to Australia in 1968. Between 1968-1987 she conducted research in micropaleontology at the NSW Department of Mineral Resources in Sydney and retired as Principal Research Scientist.
In 1985, she met Leif Karlsson, a biomedical electronics engineer, who at her suggestion, developed a breathing monitor Cotwatch. That introduced Viera into the world of vaccines: babies monitored on Cotwatch had alarms after vaccination, indicating stress. Because the paediatricians/SIDS researchers were not interested in doing research with Cotwatch, Viera decided to do a “damn good job of it” herself. Not only she collected feedback on alarms recorded by the parents, who decided to monitor their babies’ breathing, but Leif developed computerised Cotwatch and, instead of records of alarms by parents, Leif and Viera started showing paediatricians computer printouts of babies breathing recorded over long periods of time. [Cotwatch was a non-touch medical technology, with sensor pad placed under the mattress, so they could monitor longitudinally.] Very soon, Viera noticed that flare-ups of stress-induced breathing followed a pattern of critical days, with maximum stress level on days 2, 5-7, 10-11, 15-16, 21, 24, 28 and even 6-7 weeks after vaccination. These are also the critical days with increased numbers of sudden infant deaths. There were also critical hours, within the first 24 hours after vaccination: 4 and 13. There also was a characteristic clocking, at 11.30pm and 3am as the most prominent hours when alarms sounded. This represented evidence of the causal link between the administered vaccines and the observed reactions and deaths.
Viera started going to medical libraries and systematically searched for, copied, studied and assembled into appropriate magazine holders tens of thousands of orthodox medical papers. To this day she has collected more than 100 000 pages of medical papers. To her great surprise, she has realised that everything one ought to know to see vaccination as useless and dangerous, has been published in orthodox medical papers published in reputable peer-reviewed medical journals. Sometimes one has to read between the lines, when the truth shines through a web of lies, especially when the researchers were not aware of the true meaning of their results.
The only effect of vaccines is anaphylaxis, a harmful immune response, sensitisation, increased susceptibility to the diseases which the vaccines are supposed to prevent and also to a host related and unrelated bacterial and viral infections and great number of substances, resulting in allergies. In other words, the effect of (supposedly prophylactic) vaccines is exactly the opposite to prophylaxis.
In 1996, Viera was approached for an expert report by the first of many subsequent parents whose baby died after vaccinations and whose father had been accused of killing her: shaken baby syndrome. Again, Viera embarked on systematic research of the issue and started with the very first publications that introduced this concept in medical literature. She established that Caffey (1946), who admitted that he was not a formally trained and qualified radiologist, misinterpreted the symptoms of scurvy as inflicted injuries, without a shred of evidence. The valid question remains, why the scores of formally qualified radiologists still continue misinterpreting the typical, recognised and well-documented signs of scurvy caused by the toxic effect of the administered vaccines and medications as injuries inflicted by the innocent parents. Caffey’s x-ray photographs of the characteristic bizarre scurvy fractures and subdural, retinal and periosteal bleedings speak for themselves; Hiller, a formally trained Australian radiologist, in 1972, correctly recognised Caffeys’ serious error. Hiller’s 1972 paper was available at the time of Caffey’s activities.
The present situation with rampant false accusations of parents of vaccine-injured and killed babies reflects very badly on orthodox medicine. It is not just a highly politicised big business, but a system that thrives on ignorance, creating illness and untimely deaths, deliberate lies and hostility towards patients and exploits especially babies and young children. One has to ask why formally trained doctors fail to recognise vaccine injuries and deaths and obsessively accuse innocent parents of crimes committed by medical profession. It is a crime to inject babies with toxic and deadly vaccines and then incriminate innocent parents of causing, what demonstrably are, iatrogenic injuries and deaths.
Viera emphasises that it is imperative not only to study the latest medical literature, but to study older, even though published a hundred years ago, seminal papers. Past research is relevant because it was conducted at the time when there was very little money in medicine and no controlling influences from Big Pharma, and hence medicine was more honest and searching for and revealing the reality, and doctors were better observers of the symptoms, since they could not rely on technology
Mr. Mark Freeman
Mr. Freeman’s path to law is a bit different than most. The Mechanical Engineering degree that Mr. Freeman holds from Penn State University is particularly helpful in understanding why injury bioengineers have consistently rejected the hypothesis of shaken baby syndrome on the basis of mechanical engineering science. After working for the Department of Defense as a mechanical engineer for five years Mr. Freeman left the government to run a small business on the Main Line of Philadelphia. While married with three young children, running a small business and working 60 or more hours per week, Mr. Freeman entered the evening division of Temple University Law School and completed the trial advocacy program and his law practice focused on estate planning, estate administration and elder law for many years.
Entry into the shaken baby world came when the baby of a close personal friend went to the hospital with seizure activity and vomiting and a few days later his friend was arrested, led off in handcuffs from the hospital and was charged with assault and child endangerment. Fortunately, the friend’s two-month old son survived. A very experienced criminal lawyer represented his friend and Mr. Freeman offered to help. It quickly became apparent that even an experienced criminal attorney had little idea how to defend an alleged shaken baby case. So after spending hundreds of hours researching, reading medical journal articles, going to conferences and talking to doctors from around the country, figured out what really happened and successfully defended the dependency proceeding where the county child protective services agency was trying to take his son away and the criminal charges were dropped.
After learning how our legal and child protective services agencies adopt the medical presumption of abuse when a child has a subdural hematoma as a result of the dogma of shaken baby syndrome, Mr. Freeman began to represent those who were victimized by this false medical hypothesis. It is tragic when these young children experience these symptoms that appear to have been caused by child abuse. It is even more tragic when innocent parents and caregivers are charged criminally and/or have their children taken away from them because so called child abuse pediatricians misdiagnose the cause as abuse. Mr. Freeman considers it the highest professional calling an attorney can have to represent those who have been falsely accused and finds deep satisfaction in returning children to innocent parents and successfully defending false charges of abuse. Mr. Freeman represents clients in the state court of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in Federal Courts and consults with clients who have retained local attorneys in other states. He can be reached at 1-800-580-0084.
Topic: The Anatomy of Injustice. How those accused of medically diagnosed crimes are unjustly presumed guilty.
With tragic regularity, innocent parents and innocent caretakers are accused and convicted and have their children taken away, all in the name of “protecting” the children. How did the discredited hypothesis of Shaken Baby Syndrome, a hypothesis that has been disproved by prospective scientific experiments and should have been abandoned years ago, become adopted by our legal system resulting in a presumption of the guilt of parents and caretakers? Why does this situation continue to persist in the face of a growing body of medical and scientific evidence that the hypothesis of the shaken baby syndrome is bankrupt.
A presumption is a very powerful legal concept that establishes upon whom the burden of proof in any legal proceeding rests. Criminal defendants are supposed to enjoy a presumption of innocence meaning that the prosecution must carry the burden of proof by a beyond a reasonable doubt standard. The child protective services agency is supposed to have to carry the burden of proof in any proceeding in which children are removed from the custody of their parents. Their burden of proof is typically lower, either by a preponderance or clear and convincing evidence standard. In either case, however, the burden of proof is supposed to be upon the child protective services agency.
However, once the so called child abuse pediatrician gets involved and utters the talismanic words “shaken baby syndrome” or any of its variants like the most recent “abusive head trauma,” the burden of proof then shifts to the parent or caretaker who was with the child when symptoms first became life threatening to “explain” what happened to the child. In many cases, the parent or caretaker brought the child to the hospital because they wanted the medical experts to find out what is wrong with the child because the parents do not know. However, the very medical experts to whom the parents are looking to for expertise to find out and explain what is happening to their child then turn and ask the parent or caretaker to “explain” what happened.
When that parent or caretaker cannot “explain” what happened, that parent or caretaker is presumed to be guilty of inflicting abuse and presumed to be lying about what happened. How did a society that purportedly holds the presumption of innocence as a sacred tenant of our judicial system get to the place where we are today, a place that parents and caretakers are not presumed innocent, but are, in fact, presumed guilty when the only evidence of guilt is imaging and clinical evidence of conditions that have a myriad of known non-traumatic medical causes, most of which have not been ruled out because they are considered “rare” and there are potentially tens, hundreds or even thousands of yet unknown non-traumatic medical causes?
Why do these so-called child abuse pediatricians and other doctors continue to render opinions and testify to a hypothesis that has been discredited by most, if not all, prospective scientific studies ever conducted? Why do the medical facilities that host these so called experts continue to tolerate their misguided and unsupported opinions? Why does our justice system continue to arrest, convict and take children away from innocent parents on the basis of a discredited hypothesis? What can be done to stop these tragic injustices?
Mr. Zachary Bravos
Legal Counsel Wheaton Illinois
Mr. Bravos has a bachelor of arts with concentrations in chemistry, English literature, and philosophy. I have always appreciated both the demands of science and the liberal arts approach to learning. My education attempts to reflect the mandate of my favorite philosopher Aristotle, who believed that we have an ethical duty to realize our full potential. For this reason I also play classical guitar (since 9 years old) paint, ballroom dance, photograph wildlife, hunt mushrooms, cook, and generally drive my wife crazy.
I was licensed as an attorney in 1978 and have now practiced law for over 30 years. In that time I have handled cases ranging from speeding tickets to death penalty murder cases. I have been involved in all aspects of civil litigation, criminal defense, administrative appeals, and child welfare proceedings. I have been privileged to participate directly in cases in 19 of our United States and have consulted on cases in most of the country.
My approach to the practice of law is quite simple. In any given case you must learn all of the facts. That means reviewing every document, investigating every piece of evidence, and organizing all of this material so that it makes sense and is easily accessible. Then you must fully understand the applicable law. That means recognizing where the law is clear, areas where it is unsettled, and areas where it may be subject to change or expansion. Applying the facts to the law and presenting them in an effective way in court to support your theory of the case is the real essence of trial skill.
Understanding all of the facts includes understanding all of the theories and science that underlies them. In science intensive cases that means being able to separate science from pseudoscience, reality from fantasy, reliability from fiction, truth from falsity, and the appropriate use of experts to educate and inform. I believe that even the most seemingly complex cases can be made easily understandable if broken down into their constituent parts and presented in a fair and straightforward manner.
Defending the innocent carries special responsibility. Our legal system is essentially a truth-seeking device. When it fails to find the truth, when it wrongly assesses the innocent as guilty, it fails of its essential purpose and the entire system suffers. For the individual the consequences are devastating: possible loss of liberty, loss of family, social stigma, and life-long emotional suffering.
Defending the innocent is fraught with pitfalls and knowing when and how to take these actions requires deep understanding of how those involved in the investigation and prosecution of offenses think, operate, and view the world. My understanding has developed over 30 years of experience in defending those whom I believe were falsely accused.
Mr. Ray Ferris
Retired Social Worker Victoria British Columbia
Mr. Ferris studied social science at the London School of Economics and Political Science, which is a college of London University. He arrived in British Columbia in June 1957 and worked in the public service for the nearly 31 years. He started work in Smithers BC some 1200 km, or 750 miles north east of Vancouver. He worked on general public welfare, including child welfare. He was social worker and then district supervisor. He then spent a couple of years at the port of Prince Rupert, where he worked only with aboriginal people. Then he was district supervisor at Duncan on Vancouver Island until he moved to Victoria in June 1967. He was supervisor of long term foster care for the Victoria Children’s Aid Society and later supervisor of community development. After takeover by the provincial government he became a funding bureaucrat for local funding local social services. He eventually found this work to be unrewarding and took a voluntary demotion to do child protection work again. He was family court co-coordinator for 18 months and then social worker. In September 1985 he became director of alcohol and drug counselling services in Victoria until he retired in March 1988. Since retirement he wrote a book “The Art of Child Protection.” By chance he fell into doing advocacy work on a volunteer basis and have handled numerous cases of wronged foster parents and families caught up in the child protection system. Wronged foster parents usually means wronged foster children as well.
Title: Sense and Nonsense, Myth and Reality in Social Work and Child Protection
For Registration Please See:
Feb. 5 2011 – 1:22 pm
The medical profession likes to dress up what it does as rigorous science. Doctors publish papers in fancy journals using fancy jargon and fancy statistics. Too often there is hardly any solid science supporting their impressive-sounding conclusions.
An amazing article by Slate’s Emily Bazelon in the New York Times magazine finds that this may be the case with shaken baby syndrome. This is the diagnosis whereby caregivers are convicted of child abuse after babies die of sudden subdural brain bleeding and swelling with no evidence of external injury. The theory is that shaking the baby is the only thing that could possibly have caused this.
The medical community has been hyping this for years as if it had convincing evidence behind the diagnosis. There have been public education campaigns about the problem. Caregivers have gone to jail–with little other evidence of abuse–based on medical expert testimony that nothing besides shaking could have caused the baby’s unexplained brain bleeding.
Surely doctors touting this theory have rock solid evidence behind it, right? They’ve at least done basic physics experiments with animals or testing dummies showing that shaking a baby could produce the kinds of high accelerations known to produce cerebral bleeding?
No and no, according to Bazelon’s article.
It turns out, she writes, that the whole diagnosis is based on one experiment from the 1960s in which doctors strapped 50 monkeys onto a track and slammed them into a wall at high speed. Fifteen developed cerebral hemorrhages. As Bazelon puts it (emphasis mine):
Ommaya’s experiment involved neither shaking nor infants. Still, two pediatric specialists, John Caffey and A. Norma Guthkelch, each wrote a paper that pointed to the work as evidence that unexplained subdural bleeding in babies could occur without direct impact to the head and with or without a visible neck injury. In the 1980s, the term “shaken-baby syndrome” came into broad use, and a national prevention and awareness campaign was set in motion.
As the diagnosis of shaken-baby syndrome took hold in medicine, and prosecutors began to bring charges based on it, doctors testified that shaking could generate the same terrible force as throwing a child from a second-story window. It turned out they were wrong. In 1987, a neurosurgeon named Ann-Christine Duhaime published a paper that included the autopsy results of 13 babies with symptoms associated with shaken-baby syndrome. In all of them she found evidence of trauma that was actually caused by impact. She teamed up with biomechanical engineers to create infant-sized dummies equipped with sensors to measure acceleration.“We shook them as hard as we could, and we thought something was wrong, because the accelerations we measured were unexpectedly low,” Duhaime says. Instead, the force level shot up when the testers released the dummies after shaking them, even if they hit a soft surface like a bed or a couch.
In other words, she writes, not only are there few basic lab experiments supporting to shaken-baby diagnosis, there is actually counter-evidence against it: counter to popular impression, shaking does not produce as much acceleration as colliding with a soft couch.
All this is not to say that everyone convicted of killing babies by shaking them is innocent, but many of them probably are. Obviously, when a baby dies of unexplained brain bleeding, abuse has to be at least considered. According to Bazelon, there many other possible causes of brain bleeding, few of which have been carefully explored by the medication profession fixated on the shaken baby diagnosis. Others could include unnoticed impacts or falls a few days earlier that build up symptoms slowly before resulting in a sudden bleed; infections; and bleeding disorders.
Bazelon writes about one woman in jail today for supposedly shaking a baby-Trudy Eliana Munoz Rueda–who may be innocent. I would vote to acquit her based on what I read in the article. You can’t come close to saying she is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt when there are doubts galore about the whole diagnosis.
You can just see how shaken baby concept proved irresistible in this case. Top pediatric researchers intent on making their come up with an unproven theory. It gains momentum and public attention. When a baby under Rueda’s care stops breathing and suffers brain damage, local doctors in Virginia can’t figure out the cause and are quick to suggest shaken baby syndrome. That leads to a prosecution and a conviction by jurors swayed by impressive sounding experts who spin a good tale, offering expert opinion dressed up as proven science.
Even the most damming evidence against Rueda–that she apparently admitted to a social worker in Spanish that she might have shaken the baby–is not as bad as it sounds in my mind. There are lots of examples of false confessions by innocent people under pressure. Imagine you are an honest caregiver. A baby suddenly suffers permanent brain damage under your care for unexplained reasons. All the “experts” say it must have been something you did. You are wracking your mind wondering, “Could something I did have caused this? Did I do anything remotely rough?” Under great pressure from a social worker, who herself may be biased because she knows that doctors believe abuse has occurred, (and with no lawyer present) you admit to what they want to hear.
Is shaken baby syndrome is an example of how doctors–in their rush to find causes for horrible child injuries before all the evidence is in–may have ended up harming some people? The National Academy of Sciences needs to investigate right now to what extent this syndrome really exists, how often it happens, and how often cases blamed on baby shaking may actually have other causes. It needs to include smart, truly independent experts- and exclude people who have built their careers by touting shaken baby syndrome as a proven common phenomenon. As Emily’s article proves, it is anything but.
(This post has been revised to tone down some overly inflammatory phrases and make it more clear that this piece is a reaction to the NY Times article, not original research.)