the theory be scrutinized and its validitytested.Though shaken baby syndrome is stillembraced by the medical establishment,some orensic scientists sharply criticizethe theory as rooted in anecdote, badstudy, and speculation. Some biomechan-ical experts, pathophysiologists, physi-cians, medical specialists, and medicalresearchers have tested elements o thetheory and have established a growingbody o evidence challenging many o itsassumptions.This article briefy discusses this sci-entic evidence. But rst it looks at courtrulings that have critically examined theoundations o the shaken baby syn-drome.
Some courts questionthe syndrome
Recent challenges have been success-ul at the trial court level in
In April 2006, aKentucky circuit court ruled that in theabsence o other evidence o abuse, thetheory o shaken baby syndrome couldnot be introduced.
The Wisconsin Ap-pellate Court recently acknowledged thecontroversy regarding the shaken babysyndrome theory by granting a new trialto a convicted babysitter who had beenimprisoned or over 10 years.
Overseas courts have also ruledagainst the admissibility o the theory. In2005, the court o appeals in the UnitedKingdom overturned two convictionsor murder and reduced the charges ona third, all o which were based upon thetheory o shaken baby syndrome.
In eachcase, there was no other evidence aboutwhat happened and no evidence o earlierill treatment. The court rejected the claimthat subdural hematoma and retinal hem-orrhaging automatically lead to a conclu-sion o unlawul killing or injury.Similarly, in late 2001, the supremecourt o the Australian Capital Terri-tory reviewed the science behind an ac-cusation o shaking based upon subduralhemorrhages and bilateral retinal bleed-ing in the absence o other injuries.
TheCrown’s theory was that the “constel-lation” o injuries was caused by shak-ing. Seven Crown experts testied, overobjection, in support o the theory. Nev-ertheless, the court ound “The evidencerevealed a paucity o empirical researchon potentially critical issues.”
The highcourt ruled as ollows:
I nd that the evidence was not admissibleto the eect that the injuries were causedin that manner [shaking], whether by theaccused or otherwise, or that they couldonly have been caused in that manner.The evidence suggests that such opinionswould not be based wholly or even sub-stantially on the expert’s specialized bodyo knowledge as a pediatrician but [ ] on acombination o speculation, inerence, anda process o reasoning beyond the relevanteld o expertise.
Empirical research is now being con-ducted that examines the basic hypothe-sis behind the theory thatshaking can and does causethe injuries observed.
History of the theory
In 1971, Dr. A. NormanGuthkelch suggested thatrepeated shaking couldcause subdural hematomaeven in the absence o evi-dence o external injury tothe head.
To support hissuggestion, Guthkelch re-erenced a series o 23 chil-dren o “proved or strongly suspectedparental assault.” He did not disclosehow these assault determinations weremade.O this group, ve children had sub-dural hematoma with no evidence o direct trauma to the head. Guthkelchtheorized that repeated shaking ratherthan direct impact was the cause o these hematomas. He compared suchshaking to two cases o adults sueringsubdural hematoma as a result o auto-mobile whiplash injury in rear-end col-lisions published by Dr. Ayub Ommayain 1968.
The shaken baby syndrome theorywas brought urther attention by Dr. John Caey in his 1972 article
On theTheory and Practice o Shaking Inants
and his 1974 paper
The Whiplash Shak-en Inant Syndrome.
He drew upon theGuthkelch article, a
magazinearticle, and the work o Ommaya.However, in 2002 Ommaya ques-tioned the applicability o his researchto support the shaken baby syndrometheory, commenting as ollows:
[O]ur experimental results were reerencedas providing the experimental basis o the“shaken baby syndrome” (SBS) by Caey,Gulthkelch and others by analogy not re-alizing that the energy level o accelerationin our work related to speeds at motor ve-hicle crashes at 30 mph.
In suggesting that the associated nd-ings o subdural hematoma and retinalhemorrhages could be sucient diag-nostic criteria to determine abuse, Caeyacknowledged that the evidence support-ing his theory was contrary to medicalexpectations.
The most characteristic pattern o physi-cal ndings in the whiplashed inant is theabsence o external signs o trauma to thehead and the sot tissues o the ace andneck, and o the acial bones and calvaria,in the presence o massive traumatic in-tracranial and intraocular bleedings. Thisis an extraordinary diagnostic contradic-tion.
Recent challenges to thetheory have been successfulat the trial court level in
__________3. Florida (
Johnson v Florida
, 933 So2d 568 (Fla2006); and
Florida v Sanidad
, 00-524 CFFA (Cir CtFlager Cty 2006); Oklahoma (
Oklahoma v Watts
,CF-2001-43 (D Ct Woods Cty, Okla 2002)); Missouri(
Missouri v Hyatt
, 06 M7-CR00016-02 (Cir Ct ShelbyCty, MO), Order dated November 6, 2007); Tennessee(
People v Maze
, M2000-02249-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn CtApp Davidson Cty Tenn 2002); and Ohio (
Ohio v Mills
,2006 CR 100315 (Ct Com Pleas, Tuscarawas Cty, Ohio2006)).4.
Commonwealth O Kentucky v Davis,
04 CR205. Trial Court Opinion April 17, 2006 (GreenupCircuit Court).http://www.aapsonline.org/sbs/daubert.pd .5.
State v Edmonds,
308 Wis 2d 374, 746 NW2d590 (2008).6.
Shaken baby convictions overturned,
The Queen v Stuart Lee
, SCC 69 o 2000 (SupCt Australian Capital Territory, Canberra), 2002 WL14350.8. Id at para. 46.9. Id at para. 52.10. A. N. Guthkelch,
Inantile Subdural Haematomaand its Relationship to Whiplash Injuries
, British Medi-cal Journal 2, 430-31 (1971).11. A. Ommaya, F. Faas, P. Yarnell,
Whiplash. Injuryand Brain Damage
204(4) 285–89 (1968).12. J. Caey,
On the Theory and Practice o Shaking Inants
, American Journal o the Disease o Children124, 161–69 (1972).13. J. Caey,
The Whiplash Shaken Baby Syndrome:Manual Shaking by the Extremities With Whiplash-Induced Intracranial and Intraocular Bleedings, Linked With Residual Permanent Brain Damage and Mental Retardation
54, 396–403 (1974).14. A. Ommaya, W. Goldsmith, L. Thibault,
Bio-mechanics and Neuropathology o Adult and Pedi-atric Head Injury,
British Journal o Neurosurgery,16(3):220-42 (2002).15. Carey,
The Whiplash Shaken Baby Syndrome
at403 (cited in note 11).