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Execution Halted Over Shaken Baby Syndrome 'Junk Science'

Robert Roberson was convicted of murdering his 2-year-old daughter in 2002
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2016 5:57 PM CDT

(Newser) – A man on death row in Texas has been granted a last-minute reprieve after his lawyers successfully argued he was convicted on "junk science" regarding shaken baby syndrome, Reuters reports. Robert Roberson, who had been scheduled to be executed June 21, was convicted in 2002 of murdering his 2-year-old daughter. According to the AP, Roberson's girlfriend says he was angry when he became the sole caregiver of his daughter, Nikki. That same day, Roberson brought Nikki to the hospital with serious head injuries. Doctors thought they looked intentional and called police. Nikki died the following day.

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While Roberson maintains Nikki was hurt falling off her bed or from a fever, experts during his trial testified that she died of shaken baby syndrome and that Roberson planned to sexually abuse her. But new research shows that what used to be taken as signs of shaken baby syndrome—brain swelling and bleeding behind the eyes and on the brain’s surface—can also be caused by short falls or undiagnosed medical conditions. Roberson's lawyers successfully convinced eight of the nine members on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Roberson had been convicted on "false, misleading, and scientifically invalid testimony." Nikki never showed any outward signs, such as an injured neck, of shaken baby syndrome. Roberson's case will now go back to trial. (This boy died 12 years after being shaken as a baby.)

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