Emily Bazelon has the terrible story of another shaken baby case in which the woman convicted—the grandmother—is likely innocent. The Supreme Court says it doesn’t matter, thanks to the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which put restrictions on habeas appeals.
The majority’s brief and unsigned opinion concedes that “doubts about whether Smith is in fact guilty are understandable.” But according to six justices, it’s not the 9th Circuit’s job to do anything about that.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, with Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Ginsburg gives all the reasons to doubt the medical testimony against Smith. She does a great service by laying out the growing skepticism among a minority of doctors about the validity of diagnosing shaken-baby syndrome without any evidence at all of external injury. “What is now known about the SBS hypotheses seems to me worthy of considerable weight in the discretionary decision whether to take up this tragic case,” Ginsburg writes.
The piece includes a decision by Judge Richard Posner about another shaken baby case involving a coerced and false confession.