A common thread in many convictions is the use of discredited junk science. Here's an example from Colorado Springs: the tragic case of Deborah Wadle.
After two trials—the first resulted in a hung jury—Wadle was convicted of child abuse resulting in death. That conviction was overturned because of juror misconduct.
The evidence used to convict Wadle was a diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). SBS has joined comparative lead bullet analysis as discredited junk science. In the forthcoming Washington Law Review, Deborah Tuerkheimer writes:
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is, in essence, a medical diagnosis of murder, one based solely on the presence of a diagnostic triad: retinal bleeding, bleeding in the protective layer of the brain, and brain swelling.
New scientific research has cast doubt on the forensic significance of this triad, thereby undermining the foundations of thousands of SBS convictions. Outside the United States, this scientific evolution has prompted systemic reevaluations of the prosecutorial paradigm. Most recently, after a seventeen-month investigation costing $8.3 million, a Canadian commission recommended that all SBS cases be reviewed.
Turkheimer goes on to point out that despite new research, prosecutors in the United States continue to rely upon this discredited science, and US courts continue to affirm convictions gained through its use.
For Deborah Wadle, the discrediting of SBS comes too late. After her conviction was vacated, the DA continued to pursue her. Rather than face yet another trial, she accepted an Alford plea to a reduced charge of criminally negligent homicide, but she continues to maintain her innocence.
As Keith Findley, a clinical professor of law and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project has said, “The system is sending people to prison based on findings of beyond a reasonable doubt when in many of the cases the only evidence is medical evidence on which many medical experts…have a substantial doubt. No critic of SBS theory wants anyone to get away with child abuse, but when the diagnosis becomes the entire basis for the prosecution, that’s problematic.”
I know of no plans by our DA to review the cases in Colorado Springs where SBS was central to gaining convictions. Those problematic convictions, like the ones that have relied on comparative lead bullet analysis, remain hidden from view and beyond scrutiny.
Seeking such scrutiny and the pursuit of Truth and Justice are goals of this week's Freedom Marches. Visit the national website supporting these events at http://freedommarchusa.org. The website for Colorado's event is at http://bearingfalsewitness.com/fm.