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Appeals court to consider shaken baby case

A Virginia criminal case has become the focus of a national debate over the reliability of scientific evidence about shaken baby syndrome. A Court of Appeals panel this week will consider whether to hear an appeal based in part on whether a jury ignored critical medical testimony in the case of an imprisoned care giver.

A Fairfax County day care provider hopes to overturn her conviction and 10-year sentence for causing severe and permanent injuries to a 4-month-old boy in her care. Lawyers for Trudy Eliana Munoz Rueda argue their expert testified without contradiction the woman was incapable of exerting the physical force necessary to cause the injuries to Noah Whitmer.

The Rueda case was a centerpiece for a New York Times Magazine article on recent challenges to formerly accepted conclusions drawn from examination of the young victims of suspected abuse. “Shaken baby cases are haunted by the enormous repercussions of getting it wrong – the conviction of innocent adults, on the one hand, and on the other, the danger to children of missing serious abuse,” wrote Emily Bazelon, a Slate senior editor and the Truman Capote law-and-media fellow at Yale Law School.

The briefs in the Rueda case, filed with the Court of Appeals of Virginia, are posted on the website of David Bernhard of Falls Church, Rueda’s lead appellate counsel. Bernhard said a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday before a three-judge writ panel sitting in Alexandria.

By Peter Vieth

3 comments

  1. I hope nobody reads this story as suggesting that it’s somehow safe to shake a baby, which it obviously is not.

    But I of course hope that if any of these parents or caretakers are innocent, they’re able to prove it and go free.

  2. This article is not saying at all that it’s acceptable to attempt to harm a baby. Shaking could cause a neck injury, but it never has and never will create the injuries attributed to Shaken Baby Syndrome. The injuries are caused by a multitude of other reasons: infections, stroke, short falls, blood disorders, heart disease, prematurity, child birth, vaccine injury, rare genetic disorders, and a host of other reasons not at all to do with child abuse. This is why this woman needs to win her case.

  3. I hope the New York Times article helps them to realize that modern day scientist and medical doctors can be wrong when it comes to shaken baby syndrome. I found the article very intesting and I hope things change because of it. It’s one thing to do a crime, it’s another when it’s not a crime and innocent people are sent to jail.

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