Colorado Mom Accused of Shaken Baby Syndrome and Child’s Death Has Conviction Thrown out After 13 Years
An Alamosa judge has ordered a new trial in the case of Krystal Voss, who was convicted in 2004 of child abuse in the death of her nineteen-month-old son and sentenced to twenty years in prison. The reversal is another setback for advocates of "shaken baby syndrome," a diagnosis that's been used in court to prosecute hundreds of caregivers for abuse over the past three decades but has been attacked by skeptics as junk science. In a 139-page opinion dated August 7, Alamosa District Court Judge Pattie Swift ruled that Voss's conviction should be thrown out because her attorneys at trial failed to summon any medical experts to challenge the prosecution's claim that Kyran Gaston-Voss's death was the result of a violent shaking. The decision comes after new testimony by nationally recognized pediatric specialists that the toddler's injuries, including a devastating brain injury, could have been caused by an accidental fall. At trial, the prosecution's medical expert asserted that the fatal injuries were consistent with a violent shaking. The jury took only six hours to deliver its verdict: guilty of knowing and reckless child abuse resulting in death. Yet the basic premises behind shaken-baby prosecutions — for example, that baby-shaking produces a unique constellation of symptoms, distinct from a short fall — have been under attack for some time, and were even back when Voss went to trial. Dr. Robert Bux, the coroner who conducted the autopsy on Kyran, told Westword in 2003 that he didn't believe in shaken-baby syndrome and found it "difficult to swallow the concept." Yet the defense never called him as a witness to refute the prosecution's medical expert. Voss, has already served thirteen years of her now-vacated twenty-year sentence.