A Personal & Potent Fight for Justice

When doctors at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital diagnosed 3-month-old Quincy as a victim of child abuse, the press ran with the story. Medical imaging had revealed 17 fractures to the boy’s tiny bones, and police were targeting his father, Zachary Culp, who worked in the school cafeteria. The community understood that an accused child abuser had been in regular contact with its children.

The day of his arrest, while Zachary waited for processing with other prisoners in the holding tank, a breaking-news bulletin interrupted normal programming on the wall-mounted television to announce the development. His face loomed on the screen.

The first assault came just a few hours later, and the guards were in no hurry to stop the violence. “They beat the crap out of me,” Zachary recalls. “I didn’t think I was going to live the next 72 hours.”

He credits his survival to his uncle, a police detective who’d offered him a set of jailhouse tips before his arrest. When assaulted, Zachary says, he was told to “assume the fetal position, like you’re getting ready for a hurricane.” Zachary lost 48 pounds during the 73 days he spent in jail, he reports, but he did survive.

A year later, he was back with his wife Sarah and their son Quincy, after a series of legal and medical developments including Sarah’s diagnosis with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a genetic condition that would explain the fractures in her son.

“That was all Sarah,” Zachary says. “She has phenomenal research skills.”

Sarah had started by searching on traits they’d noticed about Quincy since birth: easy bruising, blue sclera, lots of spitting up, with slow weight gain—the last diagnosed in Quincy as “failure to thrive.” She found the story of Rebecca Wanosik, a wrongly accused parent who helped form Fractured Families, a support group for families accused of abuse based on a medical misdiagnosis. She learned about EDS and Dr. Michael Hollick in Boston.

Zachary was out on bail by then, but because of a “no-contact” order against him, Sarah took Quincy by herself to Boston for their first consultation.

“Dr. Holick saved our son’s life,” Zachary maintains. At that point, Quincy was so small he had “fallen off the growth charts,” he explains. “He was barely making it. We were desperate for help.”

EDS can’t be confirmed in an infant, but Dr. Holick diagnosed Sarah with EDS and found early signs in Quincy. He also gave Sarah the first useful advice she’d gotten about Quincy’s diet, and her baby started gaining weight. Now 5 years old, Quincy has been diagnosed definitively with Stickler’s Syndrome, another auto-immune condition.

Immediately after his family’s legal ordeal, Zachary Culp became an activist in the arena. A seriously effective activist.

In 2021, only three years after his arrest, Zachary had ushered “Quincy’s Law” through both his state senate and the house: Families accused of abuse in Arkansas based on a medical diagnosis now have the right to a second opinion—like the opinion that finally got Quincy’s health on track.

Zachary based Quincy’s Law (now Act Number 976) on legislation crafted and tweaked by family activists in Texas. He offers advice and a template to families interested in pushing for similar laws in their own states.

Zachary says his political strategy was to approach elected officials personally, “one relationship at a time.” He started with the legislators closest to him, in Pulaski County. He tried to find common ground, ways that he could support their own efforts, with letters or phone calls or outreach. “I like to see what they want to talk about first, before I push my own agenda,” he explains.

He worked his way out in wider geographical circles and up the hierarchy, routinely driving to the state capitol in Little Rock on his days off. He networked with other Arkansas families who had experienced a medical misdiagnosis of abuse.

Zachary recognizes Child Abuse Awareness Month most years—not this year, because a tornado had just ploughed through his part of Arkansas—by taking out an ad in the local newspaper, looking for other accused families.

He and Sarah offer advice and support to the newly accused, who find him through the ads or on Facebook. He’s keeping track of disputed diagnoses by Dr. Karen Farst, the child abuse pediatrician who diagnosed abuse in Quincy’s case.

Last year, he made his first shot at his own seat in the legislature. He lost, but that’s the norm for a first-time candidate. He’s not giving up.

These days, Zachary’s social media feed offers dispatches from EDS and innocence activists, in between celebrations of his family and his church community.

Whatever he does next, Zachary Culp has already proven that one person can make a difference.


copyright 2023 Sue Luttner

If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding shaken baby syndrome, please see the home page of this blog.


Filed under Child abuse misdiagnosis

Parent Interrogation Tactics, an Update

The good news is that the journal Forensic Science International: Synergy has published my letter to the editor in response to the article by Cyrille Rossant and Chris Brook describing the experiences of French parents during police interrogations, as summarized in my previous post.

The bad news is that submitting the letter took longer than writing it, because the process for submitting a few paragraphs was the same as for submitting an entire article. It’s hard to imagine that many affected families made the time to work through it all—although I’ve updated my original post with a few more details about the process.

If you have written a letter about your interrogation experiences, though, or if you still intend to write one, you can simply email it to the journal’s editor, Dr. Max Houck, at https://www.journals.elsevier.com/forensic-science-international-synergy/editorial-board/dr-max-houck#email-dr-max-houck. I don’t think an emailed letter will be considered for publication, but I’m sure the journal will note your interest.

If you’re having trouble finding your voice, maybe reading my letter will spark an idea. If you want some advice about the submission process, submit a comment to this posting.

The initial article by Rossant & Brook, published this winter, was an analysis of the “environment and conditions” of police interrogations in AHT cases, from a survey of 97 French families accused between 2004 and 2021. Again, see my previous post for details.

Thank you for your efforts, and best wishes with your cases.


If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding shaken baby syndrome, please see the home page of this blog site.


Filed under abusive head trauma, AHT, Falsely accused

Your Chance to Speak Up

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

“We feel multiple follow-up letters will add a powerful element to the project—equally important to the article itself.”

-Chris Brook

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.

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Affected Families Spark Change

Wrongly accused parents in Texas are on a roll. They’ve pushed through a state bill giving accused families the right to a second opinion on a child abuse diagnosis, and now a tweak that requires that opinion to come from a treating physician, not just another child abuse pediatrician. Another recent Texas law requires CPS to inform parents of their right to record interviews. How are they doing it?

Rana Tyson, a parent who pushed the second-opinion legislation, ascribes their success to a large and active community of accused families, plus whatever force—Rana says she credits God—provided them an audience at the statehouse.

“It started with this opportunity to tell our personal stories to legislators,” Rana explains, “To show them what this does to a family—not just our family, lots of families… It’s been a collective effort.”

Rana and her husband Chad lost custody of their three daughters in 2010, after child abuse pediatricians diagnosed their month-old twins as victims of abuse. Their own family doctor rejected that conclusion and helped the Tysons find the specialists who eventually diagnosed the girls with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a connective-tissue disorder that can predispose to broken bones and bleeding. Their children came home, although it took additional hearings and another 18 months to have the “reason to believe” finding removed from the CPS records.

Through friends of friends and then media exposure, Rana started meeting other parents with similar stories. In 2013, Dallas news reporter Janet St. James broadcast a segment named Fractured Families featuring Bria and Andrew Huber, also exonerated by an EDS diagnosis. Soon after, both the Tysons and the Hubers told their story on Katie, a national talk show hosted by news veteran Katie Couric. Both reporters were deluged with messages from parents who said they were in the same position.

Then in 2016, Rana answered an unexpected knock on the door to meet Cindy Burkett, her state representative, who was out campaigning for re-election. Rep. Burkett said she wanted to know what was on her constituents’ minds, and so Rana told her.

Since then, Burkett and now other state legislators have held hearings and sponsored legislation, trying to stem the swell of child abuse overdiagnoses.

SB1578, passed last year and written by Sen. Lois Kelkhorst (R), filled a gap in a first piece of second-opinion legislation pushed by the same families, explains Andrew Brown, J.D., vice president of policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who lobbied for both the second-opinion bill and the CPS-interview bill. Since the passage of SB1578, the second opinion now has to come from “a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating an underlying health condition,” Brown emphasizes, which prevents a second child abuse pediatrician from applying the same flawed guidelines and reaching the same flawed conclusion as the first. Most child abuse pediatricians diagnose but do not treat patients.

SB1578 includes the same list as the original bill of conditions commonly mistaken for abuse—rickets, EDS, osteogenesis imperfecta, and Vitamin D deficiency—but expands the scope to not only “similar” diseases but also “other medical conditions that mimic child maltreatment or increase the risk of misdiagnosis of child maltreatment.”

Other new provisions specify that

  • state actors cannot remove a child from the family based on the opinion of a physician who has not examined the child in person and
  • the Department of State Health Services must take into account the opinions of specialists consulted by the families at their own expense

While considering SB1578, lawmakers heard from the Hubers and the Tysons as well as a series of other parents, including:

  • Ann-Marie Timmerman, whose son’s findings stemmed from a combination of factors, including a brain bleed from birth trauma
  • Lorina and Jason Troy, whose son had benign external hydrocephalus (BEH), an especially large space between the brain and the inside of the skull that can predispose to bleeding
  • Holly Simonton, whose son had only an accidental bruise considered suspicious by the child abuse pediatricians

Aside from their legislative work, Bria Huber, Rana Tyson, and Rebecca Wanosik in Missouri run a non-profit parent-support organization, Fractured Families, that offers community and advice to newly accused families.

In the spring of 2022, the Family Justice Resource Center (FJRC), an Illinois nonprofit committed to evidence-based medicine in the courtroom, awarded Lorina Troy its annual Child Advocacy Award for her work publicizing the problem of abuse overdiagnosis, pushing legislators, and helping accused families.

Statistics are not available on how effective SB1578 in Texas will be, but a segment of the Canadian news program W5 featured a promising anecdote in February 2022. The segment featured the Timmermans’ story and included an interview with their attorney, Dennis Slate, who said he’d fielded 4-5 calls a month from parents saying were wrongly accused of abuse based on a medical opinion. Since the new law took effect in the fall, he said, “I have not had a new client come in and hire me on a broken bone or a fractured skull or a medical abuse or any of those other claims.”

A similar bill passed last year in Arkansas, “Quincy’s Law,” based on the Texas law. Activist father Zachary Culp, who proposed and championed Quincy’s Law, offers his template to families in other states interested in pushing for the right to a second opinion. Watch this space for the story of how Zachary built support for his bill in the state capitol one elected official at a time.

Press coverage of SB1578:

Text of the two bills:

-Sue Luttner

If you are not familiar with how often and how easily children are misdiagnosed as the victims of abuse, please see the page on this site addressing the larger medical issues.

If you are not familiar with the debate over Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), please see the home page of this blog.

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Grace in Exoneration, After 18 Years

Even as she went to trial in 2003, Tonia Miller says, she expected to be found innocent. She knew she hadn’t abused her baby, she explains, and, “I trusted the justice system.” Her chuckle at her own youthful naïveté is more wry than bitter.

Unfortunately for Tonia, the medical experts at the time were adamant and unanimous. Even though 11-week-old Alicia showed no bruises, grip marks, or fractures, even though the baby had been sick her entire life, with chronic collections of subdural blood possibly dating from birth, and even though no one had ever seen Tonia mistreat either her baby or her toddler, doctors testified at trial that the pattern of bleeding and swelling inside Alicia’s head could mean only one thing: Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). The young mother was found guilty of second-degree murder.

But those experts were wrong.

Tonia’s conviction was vacated in 2020, after four new experts brought in by the Michigan Innocence Clinic re-examined the medical records and concluded, unanimously, that Alicia had died from pneumonia.

“There was nothing subtle here,” emphasizes clinical law professor David Moran, co-founder of the Michigan Innocence Clinic and the driving force behind the appeal. “The pneumonia was blindingly obvious. But the presence of the triad closed down critical thinking. No one ever questioned the initial diagnosis.” Moran calls the case “an especially stark example” of shaking theory in the courtroom.

Incredibly, the autopsy report had noted pneumonia in the child’s lungs, and she’d been recovering from a respiratory infection, a well-recognized precursor to pneumonia in newborns. In the weeks before Alicia’s collapse, Tonia had sought medical help for her daughter repeatedly, with reports of weak sucking, breathing problems, and even seizures, witnessed not only by Tonia but also by relatives and neighbors.

Moran’s appeal also argued that the triad of findings—retinal hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, and cerebral edema—underpinning Tonia’s conviction is no longer considered proof of shaking. The appeal judge concluded that SBS has become “controversial” and noted “a shift in the scientific consensus.”

Dr. Steven Gabaeff, a clinical forensic medical specialist and an emergency physician for 40 years, says he finds the shift-in-consensus element ironic, because there has never been any scientific proof that the triad results only from shaking, despite the testimony at Tonia’s trial. “It was false evidence. It was never true,” he points out, “And this case proves that yet again.”

The pneumonia had compromised Alicia’s lungs, reducing the amount of oxygen available to her brain. Breathing, controlled at the brain stem, is one of the first functions to be affected when the brain is in trouble. Weak breathing can compound the oxygen problem just by itself, and on the morning Alicia was rushed to the hospital, her airways were obstructed by the formula she had apparently choked on. As detailed in the new reports, a series of natural processes readily explains how pneumonia in the lungs can lead to bleeding and swelling in the brain.

Even after her conviction was vacated, Tonia remained in prison while the state appealed the decision. She was finally released on bond in April of 2021, with the spectre of a second trial hanging over her. This fall, the state dropped all charges, and now she is free to plan her life.

Tonia seems to hold few grudges. She says she doesn’t take it personally that the relative who eventually adopted her older daughter cut off all contact—although she still hopes to reconnect with her surviving child, now a young woman. And she understands why Alicia’s father quit writing when he married: “I have to put myself in his wife’s shoes,” she says. “I wouldn’t want my husband in touch with a woman convicted of murdering a baby.”

Tonia even offers a positive angle on her time in prison, which she says gave her the chance to reflect and to process. Her early life was difficult, she says, and “prison helped me deal with those issues from my past.”

Not that the path was easy.

The early interrogations left her numb and confused, she remembers. “The detectives isolated me from everybody… I tried to tell them what happened, but they kept interrupting, saying I was lying… After a while I started thinking, ‘If I tell you what you want to hear, will you just leave me alone?'”

Tonia had said from the first that she had shaken Alicia gently to revive her, after the girl seemed to gasp and quit breathing—but her accusers insisted she had shaken Alicia violently, just before the breathing problems.

As she explains in the essay that accompanies this post, Tonia was “petrified” on her way into prison. Since then, she has risen to the occasion and more. Now that she’s out, she has found a job she likes and is looking forward to finishing her BA—she earned most of the credits she needs while in prison.

Please see Tonia’s reflections on her experience of prison and exoneration, written immediately after her release.

This photo: After escorting her from prison in April of 2021, Tonia’s legal team took her for her first French toast in 18 years.

See also Tonia’s entry in The National Registry of Exonerations.

October, 2021: At the Michigan Innocence Clinic celebration of four wrongly convicted prisoners released this year.

© 2021 Sue Luttner

If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding Shaken Baby Syndrome, please see the home page of this blog.


Filed under abusive head trauma, AHT, parents accused, SBS, shaken baby, shaken baby syndrome, Uncategorized, wrongly accused

Bone Fragility: A New Cause

Researchers have identified a new underlying cause of fragile bones in developing fetuses, this one apparently associated with maternal Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), according to a news release propagated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The paper behind the press release underscores the pitfalls of diagnosing abuse by default when a child with fractures in different stages of healing tests negative for known genetic conditions that predispose to fragile bones.

The original article ran in the journal Children: Fetal Fractures in an Infant with Maternal Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, CCDC134 Pathogenic Mutation and a Negative Genetic Test for Osteogenesis Imperfecta, by Michael F. Holick, Arash Shirvani, and Nipith Charoenngam

The article is a case report from the Ehlers-Danlos Clinical Research Program at the Boston University Medical Campus, where researchers examined ultrasounds of the developing fetus at several points during gestation and identified what looked like fractures suffered in utero. X-rays after birth confirmed the findings. The boy tested negative for osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) and other known causes of fragile bones, including vitamin D deficiency. The authors note:

If this mother had brought in her son for medical care later in his infancy without prior diagnosis of in utero fractures, these X-ray findings would almost certainly have resulted in the diagnosis of nonaccidental trauma.

Citing other abuse diagnoses based on fractures in children of EDS parents, the authors point to an “urgent need for further investigations to identify additional causative genetic variants for skeletal fragility, including yet to be identified genes associated with a well-recognized bone fragility disorder associated with a genetic defect of the collagen–elastin matrix: EDS.”

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Filed under Child abuse misdiagnosis, diagnosing child abuse

Unconscious Bias and Manner of Death

Graph from studyA sobering study has raised serious questions about the reliability of a document that’s generally treated in the courtroom as objective truth:  the medical examiner’s report.

Researchers at University College London presented a group of forensic pathologists—all board-certified members of the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME)—with a “not straightforward” case, a 3-year-old who arrives at the emergency room with a head injury and later dies. All pathologists received the same medical findings and investigation reports, but some were told the child was White and in the care of a grandmother, others that the child was Black and in the care of the mother’s boyfriend.

The graph above illustrates the study’s most dramatic finding: Pathologists in the study called the death an accident, not a homicide, twice as often in the case of a White child with a grandmother; in a complete reversal, they called the death a homicide five times as often as accident in the case of a Black child with the mother’s boyfriend. Journalist Radley Balko, in an editorial in The Washington Post, called the study “stark evidence of cognitive bias among medical examiners.”

The study also raises questions about the fundamental reliability of an ME’s conclusions:  78 of the 133 pathologists in the study told researchers they didn’t have enough information to determine whether the death was accident or homicide. Of those who gave an opinion, 23 called it an accident, 32 a homicide.

This is already a problem,” Balko’s editorial noted. “Reliability is one of the key criteria the Supreme Court has said judges should consider in deciding whether to allow expert testimony. The same facts applied to different people should produce the same outcome. That clearly wasn’t the case in this study.”

I recommend reading both the editorial and the journal article itself:

-Sue Luttner

If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding shaken baby syndrome, please see the home page of this blog.

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Good News on Old Cases

Like so much else in the past year, the first two cases I’ve come across since refocusing on the shaken baby debate involve defendants of color. While any family can be the target of misguided abuse accusations, the chances go up for non-white parents and caregivers. The good news is that these cases are in the news because the courts have reconsidered.

More details about the Texas case


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With Their Own Nightmare Behind Them, Trying to Make a Difference

Edelyn & Peter Yhip

Edelyn Yhip, RN & Peter Yhip, MD

Last summer, Edelyn and Peter Yhip were preparing for the worst:  If they were both convicted, they asked each other, who would take their children, 13-year-old Mikaela and 9-year-old Jonathan? What would happen to their home, and everything in it, if they were both in prison?

But on August 23, after 6-1/2 years of accusations, the Yhips stood in court and heard the judge drop charges against them, because the state had conceded it had insufficient evidence of murder in the 2012 death of Jonathan’s twin brother Benjamin.

“We felt so blessed when the charges were dismissed,” Edelyn said when we got together in September, at a fencing tournament where Mikaela was competing. “Now we can grieve and mourn for Benjamin, and start to heal our family.”

In a video posted by the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP), which helped with their defense, Edelyn reflected on the reality that set in after the “jubilation” the day the charges were dropped. Although it was “great to leave this behind us,” she said, “my son is gone, and our family is not the same. Our children are still in pain—they were alone and scared when they needed us the most.”

In a television interview in the fall, Mikaela remembered how police officers came to her school one afternoon and took her and Jonathan away from the family friend who’d come to pick them up—leaving them instead in the care of foster parents they’d never met before. “They told me that Benjamin died,” Mikaela recalled. “I was so confused and scared… I really missed my parents, especially at night.” She was 7 years old.

The Yhips were eventually able to transfer the foster placement to a family the children knew, but even then they were allowed only an hour and half a week of visitation, always supervised by social services—”It was like somebody was spying on us all the time,” is how Mikaela put it. Jonathan was not allowed to attend his brother’s funeral.

Edelyn said she now has two goals: restoring her children and changing how infant death investigations are handled. “I can’t just pick up and go back to normal,” she declared, “not after what my children went through, what Peter and I went through. This nightmare should not happen to another family.”

Peter Yhip told me the ordeal destroyed his own faith in the legal system—”You never imagine something like this could happen to a perfectly innocent family,” he said—but he has learned the power of community. When he and Edelyn realized they were accused of murdering their son, he remembered, “We were numb with disbelief. But so many people rallied around us, it gave us hope. I have more faith in humanity now.”

Yhip FamilyEdelyn is a nurse and Peter is a doctor. They paid off their student loans before starting a family, Edelyn explained in the NCIP video. When they found themselves infertile, Edelyn said, they adopted the infant Mikaela from China in 2005, and then their sons in 2010, when the boys were 18 months old. “Returning from Taiwan with the boys,” she beamed, “We felt like our family was complete.”

They quickly realized, though, that Benjamin had serious medical problems, with recurring infections and a diagnosis of failure to thrive that led to an implanted feeding tube. In the spring of 2012, Edelyn found him not breathing in his bedroom and called 911.

Local press coverage quoted the NCIP about what happened next:

“At the hospital, bone scans showed unchanged abnormalities suggesting a genetic condition, and the neurosurgeon opined Ben had suffered a stroke that caused his collapse,” according to the NCIP. “Ben was put on life support and eventually declared brain dead. Arrangements were made for organ donation.”

Despite Benjamin’s long and complex medical history—including a series of hospitalizations in Taiwan, before he was adopted—the state’s pathologist declared the death a homicide, citing the presence of subdural and retinal hemorrhages, which are two elements of the  “triad,” a pattern of bleeding and swelling inside the infant skull that is commonly attributed to “abusive head trauma,” previously known as “shaken baby syndrome.”

While their children remained in foster care, baffled and terrified, Edelyn Yhip was arrested at the family home, and Dr. Yhip was arrested at his clinic, handcuffed and led out the front door past patients in the waiting room.

The Yhips’ friends and family rallied behind them, setting up a web site and raising money to mount a defense. More than one family put their homes on the line, adding their properties to the bond, so Edelyn and Peter could be out of prison while waiting for trial. The family was reunited about a year after the accusations, when the dependency court found “substantial evidence” that Benjamin had died of medical complications, not criminal assault. Still, the county continued to press its criminal case for five more years, while the NCIP submitted a growing body of medical reports supporting the family’s innocence, as well as court decisions from other disputed shaking cases and the 2018 book, The Forensic Unreliability of the Shaken Baby Syndrome.

“We had a host of heroes in this case,” wrote NCIP attorney Paige Kaneb, who stuck with the case through all those years, in an email announcing the decision to drop the charges. “Great day, long overdue. The best part was after court when the Yhips told their 13-year-old daughter that this is finally over.”

The nightmare is over, but the Yhips are not leaving their experience behind. Both Edelyn and Peter say they hope their case might help move the debate about shaking theory forward, and help other families avoid a nightmare like theirs. “The triad has got to go,” Edelyn insists. “It’s not just the financial toll, it’s the emotional toll it takes on your whole family.”

This week, the Yhips are heading to Atlanta for the annual Innocence Network conference, April 12–13, where they are hoping to connect with other accused and exonerated families. You can contact them at fresh20fishing@gmail.com.

copyright 2019, Sue Luttner

If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding shaken baby syndrome, please see the home page of this blog.

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Filed under abusive head trauma, AHT, Falsely accused, Innocence Project, SBS, shaken baby, Uncategorized

Dropped charges, an executive pardon, and other good news

Three court decisions this winter continue a recent surge of good news for families fighting misguided abuse accusations.

Charges Dismissed 

The Parker Family

In Michigan, a judge offered an apology while dismissing charges against Allie and Jimmy Parker, separated for eight months from their two young children after they were accused of abusing their 6-week-old son. Dr. Douglas Smith, who uncovered the medical reasons for the findings that led to the diagnosis, has posted an excellent review of the case on the Torn Family web site, a resource for parents wrongly accused.

For the news treatment, see the WXYZ coverage. Reporter Heather Catallo also produced a broader piece about the over diagnosis of abuse,”Child Abuse Pediatricians: Are parents being wrongly accused?“, featuring Dr. Smith and law professor Keith Findley, founder of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. Both articles invite readers to contact the reporter.

Pardon Granted

In Maine in late December, a judge granted a pardon to Brandon Ross, a father who had accepted a plea bargain in order to reunite his family when the state refused to accept an Ehlers-Danlos diagnosis—even after his son suffered another fracture in foster care. The WMTW8 coverage features the text version of the story and two touching video treatments.

Family Reunited

The Cokers and their attorney

The Coker-Joyner family and their attorney Ryan Schwartz

And in South Carolina, a family court judge reunited a toddler with his parents and derailed a fast-track adoption last week, after accepting a defense doctor’s diagnosis that the boy’s fractures were due to a vitamin D deficiency. Parents Joshua Coker and Ashley Joyner still face criminal charges, but they are with their son again.

After the decision, the family’s attorney, Ryan Schwartz, posted a joyous Facebook entry in which he wrote:

Today was the highlight of my legal career. On May 8, 2017 my client’s child was taken away by DSS after they rushed their infant child to the hospital after they discovered a swollen leg. They had their child taken away after it was discovered he had 16 fractures but never any bruises or ANY evidence of child abuse. They not only had their child taken from them for two years (only seeing him 2 hours a month at the DSS building and supervised) they missed his first words and steps and they were humiliated in the news when they were arrested and charged with child abuse. It took a lot of work, late nights and a ton of research and help from great friends but today we were able to wrap up a three day trial where the Department of Social Services attempted to terminate their parental rights forever and adopt out their child. At the end of trial DSS was ordered to return the child immediately and pay for their counseling for the next year…

Don’t believe everything you read.

Maybe the tide is turning.

copyright 2019, Sue Luttner

If you are not familiar with the debate about shaken baby syndrome, please see the home page of this blog.


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