Date for Execution of Man on Death Row for Shaken Baby Syndrome is Halted as Conviction is Blamed on “Junk Science”
Last week, we reported that Chief Justice Ralph Gants from the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts had ordered a re-trial in the case of Oswelt Millien, a young father, who in 2015 was jailed for 4-5 years for causing permanent injuries to his six-month old daughter, Jahanna. This week yet another case, this time in Texas, has hit the news. On 17th June, 2016, Reuters reported that: "The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday halted the planned June 21 execution of Robert Roberson and sent his case back to trial court. It based its decision on a recent state law that permits legal challenges citing new scientific evidence potentially pointing to wrongful convictions." In 2002, Robert Roberson was convicted for the murder of his two-year old daughter, Nikki Curtis. Although experts at the time had testified that the toddler had died of Shaken baby syndrome--a syndrome defined by brain swelling, bleeding behind the eyes and bleeding on the brain’s surface--Roberson had always denied that he had hurt his daughter and maintained that Nikki’s injuries may have been caused by a fall from her bed or a fever of 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit. (40.3 degrees Centigrade) Reuters continued, by explaining that Shaken baby syndrome can be caused by short falls, other undiagnosed medical conditions, such as blood clotting disorders and latent trauma from a difficult birth. They stated that lawyers had pointed out that it is impossible to shake a child to death without causing serious neck injuries which they said that the child did not have. They concluded that: "Robert Roberson was wrongly convicted of murdering his … daughter based on ‘junk science’ and highly inflammatory sexual-abuse allegations that were false." This is a landmark case and may lead to other innocent prisoners that are awaiting execution to be awarded a reprieve.