Conviction Reversed after Scientific Shift in Shaken Baby Syndrome

A New York judge has reversed the murder conviction of Renée Bailey, a caretaker convicted of shaking a toddler in her care. In the decision, the judge stated that “there has been a compelling and consequential shift in mainstream medical opinion” regarding shaken baby syndrome (SBS), as reported by Steve Orr and Gary Craig in the Democrat & Chronicle.

In 2001, Bailey was convicted after a child in her care suffered a fatal head injury. At her trial, prosecutors argued that the head injury could have only been caused from shaking by Bailey. At the time, SBS was widely accepted as dispositive evidence that a child had been shaken.

However, a “growing number of physicians and scientists” now argue that the findings comprising SBS do not always mean that a violent shaking occurred. Using this changing scientific opinion, Bailey moved for a new trial on the basis on new evidence.

New evidence that was not available at the time of trial is an acceptable reason to grant a new trial. This is the law in Washington state as well as in New York.

Bailey’s attorneys call this the first New York decision where a change in scientific theory has qualified as new evidence.

The district attorney has said the state will either retry or appeal the decision.