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Two Michigan men stand separately accused of murdering their partners’ children through violent force that resulted in Shaken Baby Syndrome. But according to their defense attorneys, that diagnosis may not hold up in a court of law.

Shaken Baby Syndrome, also referred to as abusive head trauma, is frequently tied to the presence of three fatal symptoms: bleeding behind the eyes, bleeding along the surface of the brain, and swelling of the brain. Yet the defense teams in both cases argue that those factors alone are not enough to determine physical abuse; they might be caused by falls, accidents, or preexisting injuries. Around 28,000 infants are born with a birth injury every year, for example.

Leo Ackley and Anthony Ball will separately stand trial for first-degree child abuse and murder in Calhoun County Circuit Court. Ackley was previously convicted for the death of his girlfriend’s two-year-old and sentenced to life in prison in 2012, but was granted a retrial next year after the Michigan Supreme Court determined his attorney at the time had neglected to “engage a single expert witness to rebut” testimony from the prosecution’s expert witness.

Ball, meanwhile, is accused of killing his fiancee’s 20-month-old in 2014. His defense attorney, Kimberly Schroder, argues that the injuries may have been caused by a car accident the child was involved in a few days before she died.

In both trials, however, the principal issue in question is whether Shaken Baby Syndrome has enough scientific evidence to be used for legal conviction.

“This case is really about Shaken Baby Syndrome… a highly controversial, unproven hypothesis unfit to serve as the basis for a murder prosecution,” Shcroder wrote in court proceedings.

The prosecution, however, remains unfazed. “This is not a Shaken Baby Syndrome case,” Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert said to the Washington Post. “It implies that if you shake a baby hard enough, injuries occur. That’s not the argument in this case. We’re not claiming that the baby was shaken. We’re claiming the baby was injured.”

Trials will commence this week and next in Calhoun County.

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Comments (1)

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