What if a Parent Confesses to Shaking a Baby? – Part Two
Trial lawyers know something that medical doctors cannot seem to figure out: There is such a thing as a false confession. This is not speculation; it is a well-established fact. To know this is true, we need only look at the many over-turned cases where defendants were sentenced to a long time in prison because of their confessions. Across the country, innocence clinics have examined the DNA evidence. They have proven that the person who confessed to the crime did not actually commit it. One could ask, “Why would someone confess to a crime they had not committed?” The reasons are many and varied. But it does happen and is important to the point I’m trying to make.
There is substantial and compelling evidence in cases involving murders and sexual assaults where the false confession scenario has been explored. It is difficult to imagine a DNA based defense in a shaken baby syndrome case. However, some studies have indicated that the rate of false confessions in SBS cases may be high enough to be statistically significant. And that is an important point. The reality is that confessions are unreliable as a foundation for a medical/scientific investigation. Sadly, the medical studies relied upon by medical doctors make the assumption that a confession conclusively establishes the accuracy of a doctor’s diagnosis of child abuse.
In the real world of the court system, I see a variety of parent statements being treated as confessions. In my practice this has included:
- Burping a child
- Bouncing a child
- Playing with a child
- Swinging the child in a swing
- Dropping a child by accident
- Tripping or falling with a child
- Holding a child too tight
- Jostling a child who is unresponsive
All of these “confessions” are reported as truth in an SBS case and added to the collection of evidence used by Child Protection Team doctors. These “confessions” support their view that confession evidence conclusively establishes shaking. Even winning a jury trial will not stop the accumulation of this “evidence” in support of SBS theories.
Parents looking for a more thorough explanation of the dynamics of false confessions in SBS cases would do well to examine the Brook article. Parents looking to defend an SBS case in a Michigan court are welcome to contact us for a free initial phone screening by a competent trial attorney.