UPDATE on July 18, 2016: Read Judge Williams’s decision acquitting Lt. Brian Rice of all charges in the death of Freddie Gray.
Like all of you, my thoughts are with the French today as they grapple with yet another terrorist attack. Yesterday’s senseless carnage in Nice, France at a Bastille Day event makes me wonder what it will take to end these horrific tragedies on our own soil and abroad.
A few days ago, I interviewed Greg Woods, a professor of criminology and criminal justice. We discussed criminal behavior, the attacks on Dallas police, and more. The focus, however, was on the events happening in the U.S., not abroad. That podcast will be posted tomorrow.
In other news, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed another shaken baby syndrome conviction yesterday–the second such reversal in two months. The basis for the reversal was ineffective assistance of counsel because the defense attorney did not adequately challenge the medical testimony about what caused the baby’s injuries.
There is a dispute in the medical community about causes of the triad of symptoms that historically was considered proof of shaken baby syndrome. Those symptoms are bleeding under the dura mater of the brain, bleeding in the retinas of the eyes, and brain swelling. The dispute today is that there can be other causes of these symptoms.
According to a footnote in yesterday’s decision, in 2009 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that the term “abusive head trauma” be used instead of “shaken baby syndrome” which implies a single incident.
In the case reversed yesterday, Derick Epps was charged with assault and battery of his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter, Veronica, for whom he was babysitting in 2004. (He was also caring for Veronica’s four-year-old sister.) Veronica did not die but she suffered permanent injury—blind in one eye and confined to a wheelchair. Epps claimed she fell down the stairs and fell off a stool—both events occurring while he cared for her. At trial in 2007, the prosecution presented a medical expert who said the injuries could not have occurred as Epps claimed; the defense did not call a medical expert at trial. (Apparently, the expert consulted by the defense agreed with the prosecution which is why the witness never testified.) Epps was convicted and sentenced to 7 to 10 years in prison. He served his time and is out today.
Convictions based on the triad of symptoms are being reversed, not just in Massachusetts, but elsewhere in the country where there is evidence that the defense didn’t do enough to challenge the state’s medical experts. I interviewed New York appellate attorney Mark Baker about a case he’s handling on this issue. You can listen to that September 18, 2015 podcast of Mark on the podcast page.
On a final note, some of you have noticed that KOC moderator extraordinaire Jessie is not currently on the site. She is dealing with other obligations right now but, hopefully, will be back soon!