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Evaluating Child Abuse Allegations

Articles and Resources

Below are links to several publications that describe how to distinguish intentional injuries from accidental injuries. Most are from a law enforcement perspective, but may give helpful information regarding how injuries were evaluated in your case.

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome, Abusive Head Trauma, and Actual Innocence: Getting It Right - This April 30, 2012 article explains the history of the Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma diagnosis, discusses the ongoing debates around this diagnosis, reviews and critiques the scientific literature supporting the diagnosis, and discusses the appropriateness of testimony related to SBS/AHT under the Daubert standard. The full text article is available for free download by clicking the "download this paper" button.
  • Examining Shaken Baby Syndrome Convictions in Light of New Medical Scientific Research This article from October 10, 2012, examines the controversy concerning Shaken Baby Syndrome and how emerging medical research is prompting the legal system to re-examine SBS convictions. Click on the link and then click Download This Paper at the top of the page to read the full article.
  • Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guide teaches techniques for investigating child deaths, including scene investigation, interview techniques, and reporting practices for investigators.
  • Burn Injuries in Child Abuse - a US DOJ publication that gives information used by law enforcement officers and medical professionals to distinguish intentional burns from accidental contact. It includes descriptions of injuries and interviewing questions.
  • Accidental Scald Burns in Sinks by M. Olivia Titus, Amy L. Baxter, and Suzanne P. Starling in Pediatrics 111(2):e191. (2003). This article evaluates accidental burn injuries similar to those found in inflicted injury and discusses information needed to distinguish the causes.
  • Evaluating Physical Abuse in Children - provides general information about how law enforcement officers and medical professionals evaluate whether an injury, including fractures and burns, was intentional or accidental. It was published in 2000 in the American Family Physician.
  • The cutaneous manifestations and common mimickers of physical child abuse by Shawna S. Mudd and Jeanne S. Findlay, J Pediatr Health Care. (2004). 18,123-129. Contact Sarah Rackley Olson about how to view the full text of this article.
  • NC Child Medical Evaluation Program - CMEP has developed a statewide network of providers who perform medical and psychological assessments of children referred by DSS agencies. This website contains information about the program and other resources.

Child abuse experts

For information about experts who have worked on cases where child abuse is alleged, see the database of medical and psychological experts.

Shaken Baby Syndrome Resources

The Innocence Network has created a resource for defenders which contains reports, scientific articles, motions, transcripts, and practice pointers for cases involving shaken baby allegations. Email Katherine Judson for information about accessing this website. It is a tremendous resource and worth the minimal effort to get access. Call Sarah Rackley Olson (919-354-7217) if you have any problems gaining access to the site.


State v. Bailey - This 2014 NY decision grants a new trial to the Defendant. The decision describes how new medical research casts doubts on the Shaken Baby Syndrome hypothesis and shows that short falls (which this case involved) can cause death.

Aleman v. Village of Hanover Park, 662 F.3d 897 (2011) - 1983 claim where 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes an interim lucid period between shaking and collapse.

Professor Jessica Smith of the UNC School of Government outlines the relevant case law regarding the admissibility of expert testimony regarding whether a child was sexually abused in her blog posts here and here.

Articles and Publications

Contact Sarah Rackley Olson for full text articles and additional training materials on Shaken Baby Syndrome.