Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Differential Diagnosis of Justice, by Ken Strutin, LLRX.com
When King Solomon resolved history’s best-known custody dispute, he implicitly divined that the death of the absent child was due to accidental infanticide, not intentional homicide.1 And his method was an early testament to truth finding. Today, the investigation of infantile death is too often accompanied by hurried accusations and false confessions.2 And the search for truth is left to lawyers and experts who have become as adversarial as the testificants in Solomon’s court. The concept of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)3 has become a battleground where medical evidence and legal presumptions clash, testing the limits of judicial wisdom.4
The investigation and prosecution of SBS cases5 has revealed an historical and ongoing tension among medical experts6 and legal practitioners and scholars.7 From the Supreme Court on down, judges in these cases have had to struggle with complex emotions, societal impulses, conflicting witness and expert testimonies, as well as ineffectiveness of defense counsel, need for appointed experts, admissibility under Frye-Daubert, and assessment of newly discovered evidence.8 Thus, legal investigation into the reasons behind infant deaths has turned into a medical “who done it” with the suspects ranging from accident and natural causes to the criminal conduct of parents and caretakers.9
This is a collection of recent and select court decisions, law reviews and news articles that explore the ongoing scientific and legal arguments about the definition and exclusivity of shaken baby syndrome evidence. . . .