Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bulletin: Jennifer Del Prete: Illinois; Shaken baby syndrome case: Prosecutors have requested time to respond to her claim that prosecutors withheld key evidence that points to her innocence. Medill Justice Project. Bonus! Radley Balko discusses the Del Prete case in the context of Shaken Baby Syndrome and flawed science in the criminal courts. The Washington Post.

POST: "Prosecutors request time to respond to Del Prete's claim that evidence was withheld," by Lauryn Schroeder, published by the Medill Justice Project on February 20, 2014.

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Accused of violently shaking a 3 ½-month-old infant Dec. 27, 2002, Jennifer Del Prete was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2005."

GIST: "An Illinois Assistant Attorney General appeared in federal court in Chicago today requesting time to respond to Jennifer Del Prete’s claim that prosecutors withheld key evidence that points to her innocence. Judge Matthew F. Kennelly granted Assistant Attorney General Garson Fisher, who represents the state against Del Prete, a month to respond to the Brady violation claim filed by defense attorneys late Tuesday. The key evidence involves a 2003 letter written by a police detective in Del Prete’s case, which was found by The Medill Justice Project and published as part of its investigation last year. Last month Kennelly ruled that no reasonable jury, who heard all of the evidence in the case of Del Prete, a Romeoville, Ill., day care worker, would have convicted her of murder in the shaking death of a 3 ½-month-old infant. Del Prete, 43, was convicted in 2003 and is serving a 20-year prison sentence."

The entire post can be found at:

See Radley Balko on Shaken Baby Syndrome and flawed science in the criminal courts published on February 20, 2014 by The Washington Post; "DNA testing did emerge from science, and it is usually definitive. The blood or semen or hair either matches the defendant, or it doesn’t. It will show that either the defendant raped or murdered the victim, or that someone else did. Things get murkier when the question isn’t who committed the crime, but if a crime was committed at all. The new research into SBS doesn’t state definitively that without external injuries, a child couldn’t have died from shaking. It suggests only that there are other possibilities—that shaking wasn’t the only possible cause of death. It isn’t an advance in science that will produce dispositive exonorations. It’s an advance that merely calls prior convictions into question. "We haven’t yet found an adequately way to deal with that. DNA testing has forced the courts to admit when the criminal justice system definitely got it wrong. But the courts are much less likely to take action when new research suggests the system might have made an error. Of course, a person wrongly convicted in a case where new science later shows that the evidence used against them was flawed or overstated is no less innocent than someone wrongly convicted in a case where DNA shows a different guy did it. And the same flaws in our system were at work in both cases. It’s just that once a case moves beyond the trial, our system moves from an emphasis on reasonable doubt to an emphasis on finality. But now that we know that the criminal justice system is prone to error, perhaps it’s time to revisit the post-conviction emphasis on finality, particularly in cases decided on evidence that science later calls into doubt."


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