Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shaken-baby syndrome: Emily Bazelon asks if innocent parents are being prosecuted for killing their babies? MD who came up with syndrome thinks so.

STORY: "Are innocent parents being prosecuted for killing their babies? The doctor who came up with "shaken-baby syndrome" thinks so," by Emily Bazelon, published in "Slate"  on March 14, 2012.

GIST: "Now Guthkelch is worried that medical examiners and prosecutors have been too quick to turn to the shaken-baby diagnosis—and that innocent people may be in prison as a result. He called me to express that concern after I wrote about some questionable shaken-baby prosecutions for the New York Times Magazine last year. Guthkelch told Joseph Shapiro of NPR about an Arizona case he found particularly troubling after reviewing it for the defense. “I think I used the expression in my report, ‘I wouldn’t hang a cat on the evidence of shaking, as presented,’ ” he said. Guthkelch, who is 96, was talking about the conviction of Drayton Witt, who was an 18-year-old when he was charged with shaking his 4-month-old son, Steven, to death in 2000. Based on the standard medical theory of the time, the case looked like a classic case of abusive shaking to doctors who treated Steven in the hospital as well as to the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy. Later at trial, these doctors testified against Witt, who was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years. But now the case doesn’t look so clear-cut. It may, instead, be an example of doctors applying an outdated method of diagnosis—one that ignored Steven’s troubled medical history and thus missed an alternate explanation for his death. It’s not just Guthkelch who is raising the alarm: The medical examiner who testified against Witt, pathologist A.L. Mosley, has recanted his position at trial. Mosley now believes that Steven died of natural causes. Which raises a couple of questions: Is Drayton Witt serving time for a crime he did not commit? Will prosecutors in Arizona continue to argue that his conviction should stand?"



I am monitoring shaken-baby cases. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.

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:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.