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Flawed Convictions: "Shaken Baby Syndrome" and the Inertia of Injustice 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0199913633
ISBN-10: 0199913633
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Deborah Tuerkheimer's Flawed Convictions is a brilliant and timely book that meticulously presents a clear, comprehensive, and thoughtful analysis of the evolution of "shaken baby syndrome" homicide prosecutions, their impact on innocent caregivers, and the failure of the American legal system to self-correct in the face of staggering evidence of its biases and errors. It is a shocking indictment of how one form of junk science has led to scores of wrongful convictions and destroyed hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent lives and families. Tuerkheimer provides important historical context, a framework for understanding the roots of the problem as well as its persistence, and a roadmap out of the current quagmire. Flawed Convictions is an invaluable book that, well-heeded, will help prevent future miscarriages of justice." -Richard A. Leo, Dean's Circle Research Scholar and Professor, University of San Francisco School of Law


"Flawed Convictions is a brave and eye-opening exposé of the wrongful convictions of innocent caregivers in the death of a child based on 'shaken baby syndrome' (SBS). With meticulous research and gripping excerpts from police interrogations and criminal trials, Deborah Tuerkheimer traces the disturbing progression of SBS, from the scientific origins of the diagnosis to its role as a prosecution paradigm in child homicide cases. She uncovers major flaws in the criminal justice system, and offers a variety of reforms that have the potential to end the misuse of SBS, while reminding us of the reluctance of prosecutors to admit they were wrong. Flawed Convictions is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how grave errors occur in the criminal justice system and what it will take to correct them." -Dorothy Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law & Sociology, and Sadie & Raymond Pace Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania


"Law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer's new book, Flawed Convictions: "Shaken Baby Syndrome" and the Inertia of Injustice, comprehensively and neatly describes the evolution of the SBS medical hypothesis-how it emerged, became entrenched in both the medical and legal communities, then unraveled under the scrutiny of evidenced-based medicine, shifted in form but still persists-and the problematic ways it is used in criminal cases. The book takes a hard and honest look at the issues that increasingly divided doctors and challenge the legal system's ability to adapt to the changing medical and scientific evidence upon which the legal system is increasingly dependent." -Keith A. Findley and Barry Scheck, American Bar Association Criminal Justice magazine


"Tuerkheimer's book is a highly readable resource for anyone interested in the history of the SBS controversy and the current state of affairs." -David A. Moran, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, University of Michigan Law School, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books


"Tuerkheimer's account encompasses medical research, forensic science, child advocates, law enforcement, and prosecutorial tactics. Her stories engage and propel the book. In terms of style, Tuerkheimer writes with conviction, makes her points, and then keeps making them." -Jon M. Sands and Rachelle Jones-Rowe, Jurimetrics


About the Author


Deborah Tuerkheimer is a Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law. From 2009 to 2014 she was Professor of Law at DePaul University College of Law. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and her law degree from Yale. After clerking for the Alaska Supreme Court, Professor Tuerkheimer served for five years as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office, where she specialized in domestic violence and child abuse prosecution.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199913633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199913633
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #987,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a masterpiece that has rendered me up-to-date on the legal issues after reading the medical literature (I am an MD/PhD clinical neuroscientist who is now involved in these kinds of cases). It primed me for my recent introduction to dealing with police and prosecutor attitudes on this issue. Many are well-intentioned people but misguided by sticking to old beliefs that are now known to be scientifically wrong. Nimble attitudes to developing science and to what is knowable must prevail. This book is required reading for every policeman, lawyer, medical doctor, biomechanics researcher, day care provider, parent, child protection worker, psychologist, social worker, prosecutor and judge who deals with the so-called shaken baby syndrome. Clarity of thought, and justice will result from this book.

As a neuropathologist and brain scientist now working in pediatric neuropathology, it was necessary for me to get up to speed on "shaken baby syndrome", something I was taught many years ago categorically involved a triad of retinal hemorrhage, subdural hemorrhage and encephalopathy (something wrong with the brain) to convict someone of shaking their baby. Luckily, I was never confronted with such a case, nor asked to testify on any case of shaken baby syndrome for had I believed the unchallenged non-scientific dogma which has reigned for far too long, I probably would have assisted helping wrongfully convict an innocent person who just happen to call 911 and ended up getting sent to jail because the baby they were calling about developed hemorrhages somewhere from whatever cause. That cause could be many things such as infectious septicemia or reperfusion hemorrhage, but was falsely believed to be indicative of shaking for the triad.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Cohen on May 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, the inertia of bad science that has previously been accepted by the courts is hard for many medical and criminal justice professionals to reject. There are probably scores of parents, relatives, family friends, nannies and other caretakers who have unnecessarily been imprisoned, and may still languish in prison because the courtroom has not kept pace with evidence-based medicine.

Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former prosecutor of so-called shaken baby syndrome cases, has truly given a gift to the medical-legal communities by writing this book.

Once you read this book, you will want to share your knowledge with others; by raising awareness, perhaps we all can participate in righting some wrongs.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Roger Fretwell on May 3, 2014
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Flawed Convictions will open eyes to the horrors of past and ongoing convictions based on the debunked diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Tuerkheimer's book is scholarly, thorough, well-documented, but understandable by the non-attorney, non-physician general public.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Praay on July 27, 2014
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This book sheds light in the issue of wrongful convictions based upon the medical diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome. There is a firmly held belief that certain patterns of bleeding within the brain and eyes is an indication that the infant must have been shaken. Today, there is a long list of other conditions that can also account for the bleeding, but only a few years ago, it was believed that only trauma, not natural causes, could account for the bleeding. Sadly, many parents and caretakers were convicted, some even sentenced to death, based on this medical belief. Doctors would testify in court to a "medical certainty" that shaken baby syndrome was the only explanation. In time, this belief became pervasive throughout most of the medical community. But in recent years, this medical hypothesis has begun to unravel.

One case that Professor Tuerkheimer discusses, is that of Jennifer Del Prete. At the time of publication, Del Prete was still in prison, serving a 20 year sentence. However, after a series of hearings involving witnesses for both the prosecution and defense, the federal judge wrote in his opinion that the evidence used to convict Del Prete, the hypothesis of shaken baby syndrome, was "more an article of faith than a proposition of science." He also stated that there was abundant doubt in her case, not merely reasonable doubt, and that she had established her actual innocence. In a very rare move, he then ordered her immediate release from state prison, while the lower state courts decide how to proceed. Today, she is free after nearly a decade behind bars.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Richard Mabry on April 16, 2014
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Everyone who has a SBS case should read this book. You must have experts on your side to win these cases. This book does an excellent job of explaining the pitfalls involved with these cases; including the propensity for false confessions. Good verdicts to all.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Grant E. Heath on July 4, 2014
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This book was great. Well cited and long over due. Having gone through this crises myself, to see it do thoroughly researched and laid out in a legal framework was great. Some might say that it doesn't cover enough, but it was written within the scope of the legal system, which is the forte if the author.
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