The Medill Justice Project probes expert witnesses in ‘shaken-baby’ murder conviction
March 19, 2013
Undergraduate journalism students at Northwestern University investigating a former Chicago-area day care worker’s first-degree murder conviction are raising questions about the role of expert testimony in a 2005 Will County, Ill., trial. Jennifer Del Prete is accused of violently shaking a 3 ½-month-old infant at a Romeoville, Ill., day care, causing head injuries that led to her death nearly a year later.
Students in a winter investigative journalism class led by Prof. Alec Klein, director of The Medill Justice Project, formerly the Medill Innocence Project, report in a story published today on www.medilljusticeproject.org that:
• The defense’s expert medical witness was drastically unmatched in his qualifications compared to the prosecution’s expert witness, a nationally acknowledged child-abuse expert. The defense expert, who was not board certified in pediatrics and had not worked in a pediatric family practice in 22 years, appeared to miscalculate the timing of the infant’s injuries. It was a key assertion that has since been undermined by a battery of medical experts for the defense and prosecution who now acknowledge the infant’s chronic brain bleed began two to three weeks—or perhaps even weeks earlier—before she became unresponsive under Del Prete’s care. That means the infant’s injuries could have been sustained before she was under Del Prete’s care. In a sidebar, the students detail new medical evidence which has emerged since Del Prete’s trial about eight years ago.
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