Are there Innocent Parents Convicted of Shaken Baby Syndrome

It is mind-boggling to know that there is even such a label as “shaken baby syndrome”, much less the fact that innocent parents have been convicted of such a horrendous crime.

There was a study published in the journal of Pediatric Developmental Pathology, stating that symptoms of shaken baby syndrome can happen before newborn babies are even taken home. Those symptoms include swelling of the brain, bleeding on the retinas and brain, and oxygen deficiency. These symptoms do not occur exclusively through vigorous shaking.

The study looked at twenty-five babies that were stillborn and thirty newborns that had some damage to the brain due to hemorrhaging and concluded that the symptoms are quite common in newborns and can be caused by other conditions such as traumatic birth. They concluded that many of these hemorrhages resolve themselves and the babies grow up to live a very normal life.

One notable case of an innocent man convicted of abuse against his own child was that of Ben Butler. His daughter had gone limp all of a sudden and was gasping for air. He immediately called for an ambulance to rush her to the hospital. They didn’t come quickly enough so he drove his child to the hospital in South London.

The two-month-old baby girl was diagnosed with the classic symptoms of SBS. Ben proclaimed his innocence over and over and yet was convicted of shaking his baby, causing damage to her brain. He was arrested, convicted, and given a sentence of eighteen months.

After three years of a vicious legal battle, he was finally found innocent because doctors determined her injury was caused at birth. Now, however, not only can he not find work, he has to fight social services in the Family Courts for the right to see his daughter. Not only that, but social services took the child away from her Mom because the woman continued to support and defend her husband over the shaken baby charges.

Another wrongly-accused mother was Lorraine Harris. Eleven years ago, she was charged with manslaughter when she was convicted of shaking her baby to death two years earlier. Baby Patrick was only four-months-old. This poor woman’s life totally crumbled. She wasn’t allowed to go to Patrick’s funeral. She gave birth to another child when her sentencing began and that baby was taken away and adopted out to someone else. Her partner left her and both of her parents died while she was imprisoned.

Lorraine got an appeal in 2005 and the doctor that had sided with the prosecution was now totally on her side. The doctor that originally convicted her now feels that half or more of those who are convicted of SBS have been wrongly convicted. This pediatric neuropathologist, Dr. Squier, is the most experienced doctor in her field throughout all of England.

If the signs (mentioned above) of SBS are apparent, a conviction is most usually imminent. However, Dr. Squier says that relying on those signs – known as the “triad”– are no longer enough. She states that when a baby has been shaken, you would see more damage to the neck than to the brain, since the head would tend to flop back and forth, making the neck weak.

More and more cases every year are brought to court with convictions against parents for shaking their babies to death. However, each year, more and more doctors are realizing that many times, the symptoms of SBS are caused at birth, not from abuse. Maybe someday soon, these cases will be investigated more carefully before charges are brought against innocent parents. That would be so much more sensible, just, and fair to the innocent parents who truly love their babies.