Unchecked flaws in system will lead to more injustices in child abuse cases
It is tempting to believe that the dismissal of Aisling Brady McCarthy’s case is an isolated incident, or an example of a system that works (“Nanny’s murder case dropped,” Page A1, “Justice long overdue,” Kevin Cullen, Metro, Sept. 1). It is neither. Exonerations of the wrongfully convicted, including many who have spent decades behind bars, have shown us that there are flaws in the system, particularly in the area of forensic science.
While there is still much to be done, we commend those, such as the office of the chief medical examiner of Massachusetts, who have reexamined questioned evidence and revised conclusions where appropriate. It is difficult to admit that one’s professional judgement may have been flawed, and it requires courage to do so publicly; many have not engaged in this process or found this courage. Some are convinced there is no problem at all.
Even after nearly 20 reversals of convictions and hundreds of dismissals and acquittals, some proponents of the shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma hypothesis refuse either to acknowledge that there may be flaws in the diagnostic process or to engage in an honest conversation about the science. Instead, they engage in personal attacks upon those who challenge their dogma or claim that there is no debate.
The flawed analysis of child abuse cases has led to the conviction of innocent people and the destruction of many more lives. It must be reevaluated. Children and families deserve real science and sound research; they deserve better than the repetition of unsubstantiated dogma.
Judson is a clinical instructor and Findley is an assistant professor of law, and is codirector, with the Wiconsin Innocence Project at University of Wisconsin Law School.