Monday, December 10, 2012

Robert Wilkes. Shaken Baby Syndrome case. Montana Innocence Project finds new medical evidence - a rare liver disease - that may prove he did not murder his 3-month-old son. Missoula Independent.

STORY:  "What happened to Gabriel? Robert "Dave" Wilkes is currently in prison for killing his 3-month-old son. He swears he didn't do it. New evidence may prove his innocence," by reporter Jessica Mayrer, published in the  Missoula Independent on December 6, 2012.

GIST: "The Montana Innocence Project began investigating Wilkes' case in spring 2011. Innocence Project Executive Director Jessie McQuillan says her staff was struck by Wilkes' consistent and simple account of what happened the night Gabriel first got sick, as well as the prosecution's reliance on the triad. "A few things caught our eye off the bat," she says. "The fact that (Wilkes) had been accused of child abuse, and there were no external signs of abuse, and the fact that there was no history of abuse." In addition, the science behind non-accidental head trauma has changed significantly since the triad diagnosis emerged more than 40 years ago. In 1971, pediatric neurologist
Norman Guthkelch warned colleagues that the triad alone presented reason to suspect abuse. Since Guthkelch's findings, doctors have proved that the triad can stem from various other ailments, including viral and bacterial infections, blood-clotting disorders and liver disease. These evolving medical discoveries have complicated child abuse prosecutions. The debate over non-accidental head trauma constitutes one of the most contested issues in forensic pathology today. Some doctors say that it's impossible to shake an infant severely enough to cause life-ending injuries and leave no other signs of abuse. Others say to discount the diagnosis only provides shelter for child abusers. While the debate continues, courts are reconsidering SBS cases nationwide. During the past 15 years, judges and juries have taken new science into account when reversing SBS convictions in Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. In October, an Arizona judge tossed out SBS-related murder charges against Drayton Witt, who was convicted in 2002 of killing his 4-month-old son. Witt is the second Arizonan since 2010 to have an SBS-related murder conviction reversed. At the beginning of this year, the Montana Innocence Project asked five medical experts from across the nation to undergo a comprehensive medical review to find what could have caused Gabriel's death. Forensic pathologist Peter J. Stephens discovered that Gabriel suffered from a rare liver disease that caused the triad. Northwestern University School of Medicine pediatrics professor Peter Whitington also found liver abnormalities. Armed with the new evidence, Innocence Project attorneys in September asked Missoula's Fourth Judicial Court to hold another trial for Wilkes. "There's another whole side of this story," McQuillan says, "that wasn't told, that wasn't even explored.""

The 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:

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.