The Medill Justice Project examines a largely opaque criminal justice issue.
BATTLE CREEK, Mich.—On Aug. 6, 2002, in the hulking Calhoun County Justice Center, Dr. Brian C. Hunter took the witness stand in a case against a teenage mother accused of killing her daughter. What he was about to say carried weight because he was the doctor who performed the autopsy on the 11-week-old infant: “This was basically a healthy child,” he said.
Hunter testified Alicia Duff had been violently shaken to death—known as shaken-baby syndrome.Read the full story here.
An 18-year-old mother sits in a cramped room across the table from two investigators with children’s protective services. Her 11-week-old daughter, Alicia, lies in intensive care. They start asking the mother: What happened? Did you violently shake your daughter?
“During our entire interaction, she had a very flat affect; no emotion,” Robert W. Peck Jr., one of the investigators, testified at Tonia Miller’s murder trial about a year and a half later.
In an interview for this article, Miller says she gave off nothing—she wore a blank expression. But behind her emotionless wall, she says she was scared. She just wanted to see her daughter. She felt desperate, trapped.Read the full story here.
A Will County Circuit Court judge today vacated Jennifer Del Prete’s murder conviction and ordered a new trial, the latest victory in her fight to clear her name.
Little more than two years ago, a federal judge released Del Prete from prison, ruling no reasonable jury would have convicted her based on all of the evidence, which included a police detective letter discovered by The Medill Justice Project.Read the full story here.
More to come.Read the full story here.
SUMMIT, Ill.—It is a cool, clear afternoon in early May when Jennifer Del Prete sits down on her porch after her latest court hearing. After being accused, convicted and then released a decade before her sentence would be up for first-degree murder, she hopes for more: to clear her name. No one is around, not even “Slim,” her wife Karen Alonzo, and she tries not to think about the courtroom. Instead, she focuses on a bird soaring above, the muted barking of the dogs downstairs and a neighbor who passes by. Her mind wanders but she brings it back to silence.Read the full story here.
JOLIET, Ill.—Jennifer Del Prete was released from prison two years ago but continues to fight to clear her name as she appeared yesterday at a Will County Circuit Court hearing where witnesses said key evidence had been withheld pointing to her innocence.Read the full story here.
By Megan Garner
The Medill Justice Project
A Medill Justice Project examination of the federal government’s role in overseeing shaken-baby syndrome—one of the leading causes of child abuse in the United States—shows there’s been little movement in Congress, a result of political inertia, and the limited legislation that has eked through both chambers of the Capitol has been largely toothless. This dovetails with minimal action occurring among federal agencies, which have doled out at least $9 million in the past decade to tackle shaken-baby syndrome—a diagnosis that is believed to be the cause of about 1,300 children’s violent injuries and deaths across the country each year.Read the full story here.