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Debunked Shaken-Baby Syndrome Leads to Reduced Sentence

by Anthony Accurso

An Ohio man who spent 27 years on death row for the 1991 murder of his daughter Domika—based largely on now-debunked shaken baby syndrome—had his conviction overturned and has accepted a plea deal for a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years. Genesis Hill claimed that he had fallen from a retaining wall while holding his infant daughter and that his knee accidentally impacted her head.

Evidence against Hill’s story came in part from Dr. Amy Martin, who performed the autopsy, and based on medical literature of the time, diagnosed Domika’s death as having been caused by “shaking/impacts,” also known as “shaken-baby syndrome.” 

However, over the last quarter-century, our understanding of infant trauma has changed such that shaken-baby syndrome has been debunked in medical and legal journals.

Hill filed to have his conviction overturned based on several new or revised testimonies, including that of the same Dr. Martin who helped to convict him. In recanting her testimony, Dr. Martin said, “based in part on my experience as a forensic pathologist over the past 25 years, as well as the scientific literature now available that discusses more clearly the characteristics of crushing injuries to the head in children, I believe the victim’s head injury is much more consistent with a crush injury than with inflicted impacts, and certainly more consistent with a crush injury than injuries seen in shaking or shaking/impact.”

Other testimony regarding Domika’s mother, Teresa Dudley, also was presented. An exculpatory police report was uncovered, and other evidence that suggests Dudley might have been involved with the child’s death, or at least with blaming Hill after she hid Domika’s body.

Hamilton County Judge Lisa Allen handed down Hill’s new sentence after the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio issued an order in April requiring the state retry or release him. Hill is eligible for parole, but it’s not clear when he might leave prison, The Associated Press reports. 

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Sources: deathpenaltyinfo.org, cincinnati.com, Associated Press

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