From the January 2003 Idaho Observer:
Boise-area cases part of national courtroom trend to imprison innocents as cover for medical malpractice
BOISE -- Joshua King and Michael Shutz are two young men residing near Idaho's state capitol who have been accused of physically abusing a child in their charge. The child in King's case died as a result of injuries sustained from falling off the back of a couch. The child in Shutz's case is still alive. The physical evidence of abuse in both cases was examined by several area experts who neglected to consider each child's medical history.
Recent scientific evidence has linked severe vitamin C deficiency, encephalitis induced by routine childhood vaccines, and improper or excessive drug dosages to cases of shaken baby syndrome throughout the country. Despite the attempts by knowledgeable advocate Violet Harris to share medical journal articles and other published research proving the likelihood of other explanations for these children's injuries, the courts appear to be biased towards a guilty verdict.
In the Shutz case, Dr. Harold Buttram flew in from Pennsylvania to testify on Michael Shutz's behalf but was never called to the witness stand by his public defender. And in the Joshua King case, Boise State University Physics Professor Richard Reiman was not called to testify as to the fact that fatal injuries can occur from a 32-inch fall. He has stated that the noble crusade against child abuse can lead to a lynch mob mentality. He agreed that the picture Harris has painted of the current situation -- where child abuse cases are zelously prosecuted and often result in convictions because defendants are not able to put on a proper defense -- is indeed bleak.
Violet Harris has made copies of several well-footnoted articles and has both faxed and mailed this material for public defenders, the prosecution, social workers and law enforcement. After exhausting these avenues in her attempt to see justice served, she began writing letters to the editor and guest opinions for both the Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Press-Tribune. While the Idaho Statesman has printed in full her concerns regarding the Joshua King case, Idaho Press-Tribune managing editor Vickie Holbrook told her that evidence presented in court (or not) can not be included in Harris' guest opinions or editorials. Harris submitted a guest opinion to the Idaho Press-Tribune last October 30. It was not printed in full and a dozen mistakes were made when it was retyped and finally printed on December 11, 2002 -- six weeks later.
It is interesting to note that Vickie Holbrook is a member of the Governor's Coordinating Council for Families and Children in Idaho and has consistently supported Idaho's pro-vaccination campaign for children, as evidenced in the Idaho Press-Tribune. Holbrook asserts that editorials should stick to information that is a matter of public record such as police reports and information published in area newspapers. Despite this fact, she denied any bias on her part regarding the Joshua King case.
Harris should be commended (not censored) for attempting to awaken her community as to the possibility Shutz, King and many others are being convicted and sentenced for crimes they did not commit. Following is the full text of Harris' guest opinion:
Don't Confuse Falls with SBS
The Sept 15 Idaho Press-Tribune article about prosecutors wanting the death penalty in the Joshua King case is appalling.
A growing number of experts are concerned that innocent people charged with child abuse are facing long prison sentences, or even the death penalty, for crimes that never occurred.
Patrick Barnes of Stanford University, one of the top neuro-radiologists in the U.S., says, The radiologist must be aware of certain conditions that are known to have clinical and imaging features that may mimic abuse. These include accidental injury, certain coagulopathies, vascular diseases, infectious or postinfectious (e.g. postvaccinal), metabolic disorders, neoplastic diseases, certain therapies, and some congenital and dysplastic disorders. (Ethical Issues in Imaging Non-accidental Injury: Child Abuse, Topics in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 2002)
Barnes addresses how the last caretaker with the injured child is automatically considered guilty of abusive injury, especially if the incident is unwitnessed.
He also refers to fatal pediatric head injuries caused by ... short distance falls -- particularly disturbing considering Canyon County Prosecutor Virginia Bond's apparent denial of such a possibility during the King trial.
Boise State Univ. physics professor Richard Reimann has expressed concern about this stating, Hopefully, the Idaho legal system will seek bio-mechanical evidence in addition to medical testimony in the future.
The University of California, Berkeley website referred to Werner Goldsmith, a Berkeley researcher and head trauma expert who has written more than 50 papers on the biomechanics of head and neck injury:
Backed by decades of research on the effects of head impacts, and as author of the only book on the subject of impacts, Goldsmith nevertheless sees a rush by pediatricians, social workers and prosecutors to brand many parents and caregivers as child abusers when injuries were more likely caused by a fall.
Geoffrey Manley, chief of neurotrauma at University of California, San Francisco, says that, given how little is known about the mechanical issues involved in head injury, there may be people who are convicted of crimes they are not guilty of.
As for Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), Goldsmith says that in 95 percent of SBS cases, medical examiners do not even look for the injuries he is convinced must occur to justify the SBS charge.
Some physicians think that immunization is a factor in SBS cases. According to Shaken Baby Syndrome or Vaccine-Induced Encephalitis? in Medical Sentinel, the journal of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the theories on which the SBS is based are both undocumented and flawed and in many SBS cases, the true cause of death or injury [has] been vaccine-related. See www.aapsonline.org
Endotoxin may also be a factor in these abuse cases. See the website of former NIH researcher Robert Reisinger at www.erols.com/drrobert.sids/
In the 2002 article, Shaken Baby Syndrome: fundamental questions, British Journal of Neurosurgery, author R. Uscinski says that, while child protection is a good and desirable end, this protection must be based on sound science. Should the science be erroneous or ill founded, the paradigm shifts and, paradoxically, another category of innocents becomes imperiled, the wrongfully accused. This is not justice.
Both Shutz and King were found guilty. Shutz will be sentenced January 23, 2003, in Ada County; King will be sentenced January 29, 2003 in Canyon County.
Idaho is seeking the death penalty for King even though he scored 98 percent on a polygraph examination October 28, 2002. The psychologist who administered the test had rarely seen such a high score and was 100 percent convinced of Joshua King's innocence. Despite this fact, the results will not be admitted in court during sentencing. It must be noted that a vast majority of those who attended King's trial were convinced of his innocence. Others feel that the judge should have been recused from the case since he is related to the victim's family.
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