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Woman wrongly convicted for child abuse shares her story

The first woman in Michigan to be exonerated and released following a wrongful conviction has told her story at the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills campus. In 2003, she was going through the process to adopt her infant nephew when she took him to the emergency room because he was not eating and was bleeding in his brain.

The woman did not know that she was under suspicion for child abuse when she was questioned by law enforcement several days later and did not realize that she might need an attorney. In February 2004, she was charged with first degree child abuse, and in 2005 she was convicted. The prosecution had successfully argued that the baby was injured by shaken baby syndrome, and she was sentenced to a prison term of 10 to 15 years.

In 2007, her second appeal failed. However, the Innocence Project helped her get a new trial. At that trial, her original defense lawyer admitted that he had lacked the necessary medical knowledge to adequately represent her, and this was one of several irregularities that resulted in her conviction. In the new trial, expert witnesses testified that it was a stroke and not abuse that resulted in the bleeding.

As this case demonstrates, even if a person is convicted and appeals have failed, there may be hope. There are a number of situations that could lead to a conviction being overturned, including evidence of misconduct by police or the prosecution. If new evidence surfaces, this might also lead to a reversal. In addition to exoneration, the victim might also be eligible for compensation from the state.

Source: The Oakland Press, "State's first female exoneree shares story at Auburn Hills event", March 10, 2019

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