Neuroscientist Cyril Rossant and astrophysicist Chris Brook have published a telling analysis of the “environment and conditions” of police interrogations in AHT cases, from a survey of 97 French families accused between 2004 and 2021. Their paper, in the journal Forensic Science International: Synergy, concludes that confessions and partial confessions elicited from parents by police are not reliable.
The researchers say they are hoping that families who recognize their own experiences in the paper will write letters to the editor.
“We feel multiple follow-up letters will add a powerful element to the project—equally important to the article itself,” Chris Brook wrote to this blog. The letter can be any length, he said, “from a short note that they had similar experiences to a detailed account with examples. Even a single paragraph will amplify the message.”
One part of the survey asked these specific questions about the interrogations (translated from the French, with labels used in the data analysis):
The authors also encourage attorneys who have handled AHT cases to contact the journal with their own stories from their own countries.
You can read the article yourself at Why admitted cases of AHT make a low quality reference standard: A survey of people accused of AHT in France.
You can submit a formal letter to the editor at https://www.elsevier.com/journals/forensic-science-international/0379-0738/guide-for-authors.
You will have to create an account with Elsevier, the publisher, which is simpler if you also create an account with Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID), a non-profit dedicated to connecting researchers and their infrastructure. Both accounts are free and require no institutional affiliation. The author-guidelines page provides the necessary links. When asked for personal “keywords,” I put in phrases like “SBS,” “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” “AHT,” and so on. When submitting your “manuscript,” you will choose “Letter to the Editor” from the pop-up menu as the document type.
Feb. 14 update: To submit my letter, I had to create and upload three files:
- A title page containing a title for the letter and my contact information
- The letter itself, with no author identity revealed
- A statement of potential conflicts of interest—the site offers a tool that creates a file in the format they want
The journal is likely to publish only a sampling of the letters, Brooks cautioned, but a large number of letters will get the editors’ attention, and boost the number published.
If you do not want your letter published, you can simply send a personal email directly to the editor at https://www.journals.elsevier.com/forensic-science-international-synergy/editorial-board/dr-max-houck#email-dr-max-houck
The paper argues that child abuse pediatricians should not rely on the confession research to validate their model of abusive head trauma, because the confessions tend to be exacted by investigators who accept the diagnosis they’ve been given by the doctors.
Based on what they were told by police, the paper notes, parents saw little hope of proving their innocence, leaving them with a number of reasons to offer a full or partial confession, including:
- hope for a reduced sentence
- expectation that children would be returned to the other parent
- a desire to stop the accusations against a partner
- a desire to end the expensive, painful, and presumably hopeless legal proceedings
- hope for eventual reunification
Note: If your case is still in litigation, check with your attorney before making any public statements.