Del Prete hearing set next week in shaken-baby syndrome case
By Lauryn Schroeder
The Medill Justice Project
Attorneys representing Jennifer Del Prete, a day care worker convicted of murder, appeared in federal court today in Chicago seeking more time to decide what action they will take in the wake of the judge’s ruling that “no reasonable jury” would find her guilty.
Among the options available, Patrick W. Blegen, Del Prete’s lead attorney, said in an interview the prisoner could file a federal Brady violation claim, accusing the prosecutors of withholding evidence favorable to Del Prete. The claim stems from a 10-year-old police detective letter discovered by The Medill Justice Project that raises questions about Del Prete’s guilt. In the 2003 letter, Police Commander Kenneth Kroll said the forensic pathologist who conducted the infant’s autopsy questioned whether the day care worker had violently shaken the child in what is known as shaken-baby syndrome or abusive head trauma. Defense attorneys learned of the letter when it was published as part of a Medill Justice Project investigation.
Judge Matthew F. Kennelly’s ruling Monday is a significant step for Del Prete, 43, who was accused of violently shaking a 3 ½-month-old infant on Dec. 27, 2002. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2005. The judge’s detailed and strongly worded 97-page opinion not only challenged Del Prete’s conviction but also raised significant questions about the foundation of shaken-baby syndrome convictions.
Del Prete’s attorneys are expected to inform the court of their action at the next status hearing scheduled for Feb. 5 at 9:30 a.m. in downtown Chicago.