Monday, January 27, 2014

Jennifer Del Prete: The exemplary work of Northestern University students who have been investigating her case, gets recognized as one of the "best health stories of 2013.:... "How a murder case hinged on expert witnesses." Reporting on Health;

STORY: "Widows, windfalls and witnesses," by William Heisel, published by Reporting on Health on December 23, 2014.

GIST: How a Murder Case Hinged on Expert Witnesses, by Christina Assi, Rebecca Cohen, Anika Dutta, Stephanie Fuerte, Alex Hampl, and Alison Flowers, Northwestern University Professor Alec Klein’s Medill Justice Project.  The piece is one of the most in-depth examinations of expert testimony I have ever read, and it raises unsettling questions about what we can expect from the legal system. Here’s what they wrote: "As Jennifer Del Prete, the accused, watched her expert witness testify in her murder trial, she began to panic. “What is going on?” she said she thought. “Who is this guy?” Del Prete, a day care worker, sat in a Will County courthouse in early 2005, charged in the killing of an infant. She was accused of violently shaking 3 ½-month-old Isabella Zielinski at a Romeoville, Ill., day care, causing head injuries that led to Isabella’s death nearly a year later. On Dec. 27, 2002—the afternoon Isabella stopped breathing and was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital—Del Prete was the only adult present. That left her without an eyewitness to testify at trial. Instead, her case largely hinged on the testimony of an expert witness, a specialist who would testify based on his medical analysis of the evidence. Del Prete’s case is like those of other caregivers accused of this form of child abuse. Often, there is just a single adult present when an infant is found with the triad of symptoms associated with what is known as “shaken-baby syndrome” or, more recently, “abusive head trauma”: brain bleeding, brain swelling and bleeding within the eyes. And so the question of innocence or guilt is uniquely circumscribed in many shaken-baby syndrome cases. Without eyewitnesses, the accused’s fate largely comes down to a simple question: Who will the judge or jury believe—the medical expert witnesses for the defense or prosecution? In Del Prete’s case, a trial decided by a judge, not a jury, it came down to one expert for each side."

The entire story can be found at:


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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

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