Manslaughter conviction overturned in shaken baby case
DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan appeals court has overturned the manslaughter conviction of a Battle Creek man who was accused of causing fatal injuries by shaking his 5-month-old son.
Shawn Brown’s trial lawyer was ineffective for failing to present an expert to question the Calhoun County prosecutor’s theory of the case, the appeals court said last week.
“There is a reasonable probability that had defendant been armed with an expert of his own, the outcome of his trial would have been different,” said judges Elizabeth Gleicher and Cynthia Diane Stephens.
Brown’s child abuse conviction was also set aside. His appeal was handled by the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school, which has challenged many so-called shaken baby convictions.
Shawn Brown Jr. died in 2010. Brown told police that his son stopped breathing after he struck him in the back to relieve choking. A forensic pathologist said the boy’s death was caused by traumatic brain injury.
But doctors consulted by Brown’s new legal team said any injury was present days before Shawn’s death. At a minimum, the appeals court said, different opinions would have “given the jury another plausible option” for the cause of death.
It’s unclear if Brown will face a second trial since he served nearly nine years in prison before being paroled in May. Prosecutor David Gilbert could ask the Michigan Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision and reinstate the convictions. An email seeking comment wasn’t immediately answered.
“This grant of a new trial in his case is long overdue, brought about by the hard work over several years of more than a dozen student attorneys In the Michigan Innocence Clinic,” staff attorney Imran Syed said. “We look forward to the next steps in this case and to fully vindicating our client soon.”
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