FRONTLINE Investigates How Emerging Science Threatens the Validity of Convictions Based on Shaken Baby Syndrome

July 6th, 2011

FRONTLINE, ProPublica and NPR recently teamed up to examine cases of child deaths ruled to be murders. In the half hour segment that aired on FRONTLINE, investigators looked into more than two dozen cases where caregivers were initially suspected of murder, only to later have their convictions overturned. One of the main causes leading to these wrongful convictions in suspected child abuse cases is the science behind the conviction. Particularly in cases involving Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), emerging science presents alternative explanations for some of the classic symptoms associated with SBS and other forms of abuse. For example, certain blood disorders can lead to the type of bruising that is often considered a result of child abuse. Additionally, in cases involving children, emotions can run very high and there is often a rush to find those responsible, leading to misplaced blame. The episode interviews Ernie Lopez, a Texas man sentenced to 60 years in prison for shaking his neighbor’s daughter to death, but who has always maintained his innocence.

Watch the clip here.