James Duncan before and after

James Duncan pictured on the left with his two sons before being incarcerated, and pictured on the right in a CNN interview more than 20 years later while serving a 70 year sentence. His case will be retried, since there was no medical evidence provided at his original trial showing other potential medical causes of broken bones besides “shaking.” Photos courtesy of CNN.com.

by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News

On February 17, 2018, CNN aired a Special Report titled “Broken Bones, Shattered Lives” which featured the story of James Duncan, who was convicted of child abuse for shaking his son who was an infant at the time. He has served over 20 years of a 70 year conviction for a crime he claims never happened.

A Florida appeals court has agreed to re-try the case.

CNN’s Jean Casarez interviewed James’ ex-wife and two sons (now adults) for the report, and they all maintain that James is innocent.

From CNN:

Jim Duncan has always insisted he never broke the bones of his infant son, and now a Florida appeals court has agreed that Duncan deserves a hearing for a new trial.

The central Florida man is more than two decades into a 70-year sentence for aggravated child abuse. He was convicted of the crime after he and his wife brought their infant son Kody to the emergency room in 1993 when they noticed he was in pain and not using the left side of his body.

The doctor found 13 broken bones and a skull fracture in his X-rays but no bruises. The hospital called police.

“I am innocent,” Duncan, now 51, told CNN. “I did not harm my son.”

Prosecutors are standing by the conviction, but Duncan said he hopes a new lawyer, and new medical science, will end his nightmare and bring him home.

Duncan and several family members, including his ex-wife and Kody Duncan, who as an infant was at the heart of the case, sat down to tell their story in the CNN Special Reports’ “Broken Bones, Shattered Lives.”

“All I could think about was, ‘Oh, my God, he’s gonna die in there and never see his kids,'” said Jim Duncan’s mother, Celeste Bonnell.

So far, she has been right. His two boys, Kevin and Kody, are now men in their 20s. Kody’s bones healed, and he said he believes his father was wrongly convicted.

“I never once had a doubt that he hurt me. I don’t believe it,” Kody said.

Prosecutors leaned heavily on medical testimony — from Florida pediatrician Mark Morris, who still stands by his findings — and the X-rays.

Courts Today Now Demand Medical Testimony on Behalf of Defendants – Parents and Caregivers Convicted Solely on Testimony of Medical Doctors

As we have previously reported here at Health Impact News, U.S. courts across the country are re-trying Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) cases where no medical testimony was presented on behalf of the defense, that could give other explanations of injuries to infants that show up mostly only in x-rays, particularly if there was no external evidence of trauma.

See:

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Opens the Legal Door to Retry All Shaken Baby Syndrome Convictions

Attorneys Being Trained to Fight Bogus Child Abuse Charges used in Medical Kidnappings

University of Michigan Law School Awarded $250K to Learn How to Defend Shaken Baby Syndrome Cases

and:

Swedish Health Agency Rejects “Science” of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Medical Doctor and Radiologist: “Tens of Thousands” of Wrongful Convictions Regarding Shaken Baby Syndrome

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.10.21 PM

Dr. David Ayoub, radiologist and published rickets expert and lecturer, is a frequent guest in the media and an expert witness in court cases regarding child abuse. Image Source.

The CNN report by Jean Casarez also interviewed Dr. David Ayoub, a radiologist and expert on infantile rickets.

“It’s a bad diagnosis,” Illinois radiologist David Ayoub contends 20 years later.

He said he believes Kody had infantile rickets, a disease of early life in which bones do not mineralize properly. Ayoub said it led Kody to develop metabolic bone disease, causing his bones to be very fragile.

Ayoub said babies with the disease have bones so fragile that even regular handling can cause breakage. And those fractures, he said, are often misdiagnosed as abuse.

When Jean Casarez asked Dr. Ayoub how many parents he thought might be incarcerated today wrongfully on charges of Child Abuse for shaking their child, he replied “In the tens of thousands.”

Health Impact News contacted Dr. Ayoub and asked him how he came to these numbers of “tens of thousands” innocently convicted for child abuse.

Was it just a guess, pulling some numbers out of thin air?

Dr. Ayoub replied by stating to Health Impact News:

I get about 1 case per day request, and they are nearly 100% rickets cases. It is RARE that I get a normal bone referral, less than 1%.

I am sure I am consulted in less than 1% of all ongoing cases (regarding SBS charges of child abuse).

There are easily 2,000 cases per year of fractures in infants since the 1980s.

50,000 cases is a reasonable estimate.

If you or someone you know believes that they have been wrongly convicted of Child Abuse, The Innocence Project is reportedly taking on SBS cases in all 50 states.

They supply information on how to submit a case here. Note that they only take cases where there is already a conviction in place, and a sentence is being served.

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