Thursday, September 05, 2013

UIS Illinois Innocence Project joins hearing in controversial "Shaken Baby Syndrome" case

On Monday, September 16, 2013 attorneys and experts will gather for a week-long evidentiary hearing in DuPage County that seeks a new trial for Pamela Jacobazzi. She is a day-care provider, who was convicted of violently shaking to death an infant in her care in 1994.

In November 2009, the Illinois Appellate Court remanded Jacobazzi’s post-conviction petition for an evidentiary hearing regarding a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. She maintains that her trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present a defense based on information contained in the pediatrician’s records. The records indicated pre-existing medical conditions that may have caused or contributed to the infant’s injuries.

The Appellate Court held that the trial court must have a hearing to determine if evidence existed which might have proven that the infant suffered from medical conditions which caused his death rather than the Shaken Baby Syndrome “(SBS)” diagnosis that was used to convict Jacobazzi. It has also been recognized that there is significant debate within the medical community about the SBS diagnosis.

Nationally recognized medical experts will testify during the hearing about the significance of the infant’s pre-existing conditions in establishing that the cause of the event in August 1994 was not SBS; and that the very diagnosis of SBS has been declared as unreliable. It will be argued that the infant’s conditions leading to his death were not the result of violent shaking, but instead caused by the effects of an undiagnosed pre-existing condition as described in the pediatrician’s records. This defense was available at the time of trial based on the pediatrician records and would have changed the outcome of the trial.

The UIS Illinois Innocence Project is assisting Chicago area attorney, Anthony Sassan, who has been representing Jacobazzi pro bono for over 10 years. The Project is currently reviewing over 30 cases with assistance from students at University of Illinois Springfield, the University of Illinois College of Law, Southern Illinois University School of Law, and Northern Illinois University College of Law.

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