What happened to Pam Jacobazzi could happen to any babysitter, any parent, or any grandparent. A licensed daycare provider, she was convicted in 1999, of allegedly shaking a 10 month old child to death. Recently, medical science has debunked the theory of Shaken Baby Syndrome that prosecutors used to convict her. New evidence, discovered after she was convicted, reveals that the child had a naturally occurring disease that caused bleeding within the brain. Read why Investigating Innocence is supporting clemency.
CT scans prove chronic bleeding was occurring before child entered daycare
The radiologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin who conducted CT scans of the child’s brain reported there was evidence of both “new and old blood”. On May 12, 1999, this doctor testified as a witness for the defense. He said that the old blood or chronic bleeding began two weeks before the child began having seizures. The significance of this testimony was that the bleeding within the child’s brain, according to the CT scans, was occurring before Aug. 1, 1994, which was the day Pam Jacobazzi began caring for the child. Nevertheless, despite the testimony of this treating doctor she was convicted of first degree murder.
Pediatric records unknown to the jury suggest a naturally occurring bleeding disorder
After she was convicted new evidence revealed that the child had been born with sickle cell trait, was anemic, and had persistent fevers in the weeks before the bleeding was detected. Medical science now recognizes that sickle cell anemia and other naturally occurring diseases will cause the same symptoms of subdural and retinal bleeding, that before would have been mistaken for child abuse.
This evidence was discovered by reading the records of the child’s pediatrician. The jury never heard about this evidence. In fact, the pediatrician testified that this was a healthy child. However, the medical records would indicate otherwise.
The pediatrician would later say when the anemia failed to improve even after prescribing iron supplements (suspecting an iron deficiency) the doctor began to suspect internal bleeding. In his deposition taken after Mrs. Jacobazzi was convicted, this doctor acknowledged that this could mean “that there’s something else going on . . . It could be that the child has a chronic disease . . . could be that there is some blood loss somewhere”. On Aug. 3, 1994 (two days after Pam Jacobazzi began babysitting the child) the pediatrician called the child’s mother. He informed her that a test to determine if the internal bleeding was occurring within the gastrointestinal tract was negative. A few days later, on Aug. 11, 1994, internal bleeding was detected within the child’s brain. Police immediately arrested Pam based on the medical opinion at that time that the symptoms could only be caused by shaken baby syndrome. We now know Pam Jacobazzi is an innocent woman.
Pam was convicted based on a theory that forensic science now rejects
At trial the experts for the prosecution testified that violent shaking of the child caused the bridging veins of the brain to rupture. “There’s really nothing else that could have caused this child’s injuries in the context of the absence of a motor vehicle accident” or “perhaps a fall from a (great) height”. Forensic Pathologist Robert Kirshner testifying for the prosecution.
An authoritative text on forensic pathology published after Pam was convicted, now acknowledges: “When testifying as to the degree of impact, statements such as: "forces equivalent to thirty miles per hour" or "a fall from a three-story building" have been used as an analogy for the jury. These statements are not supported by scientific facts.The term shaken baby syndrome has become subject of much controversy and some investigators are now of the opinion that vigorous shaking of a child cannot cause the injuries once believed to be associated with this mechanism.” (Source: Spitz and Fisher, Medicolegal Investigations of Death, 4th Edition 2006).
Convictions based on junk science according to new study
A pediatric ophthalmologist testified that the presence of perimacular folds and retinal hemorrhages in the child’s eyes could only be one thing: shaken baby syndrome.
However, new scientific evidence contradicts this testimony. Forensic pathologist Patrick Lantz, from Wake Forrest University School of Medicine between 2004 and 2006 conducted a study of the eyes of over 700 cadavers looking for evidence of retinal bleeding. The study found that retinal bleeding was more common in non-abuse cases than in cases that involved documented child abuse. Dr. Lantz is volunteering his services to the Innocence Project to assist in Pam's defense.
A call to action
I would like you to take a few more seconds to send this message to your email contacts and Facebook friends. The anniversary of her conviction is coming up in May. If you could take a few moments of each day to continue sending out this message we will reach our goal of 10,000 signatures.
Call Governor Quinn: (217)782-0244 or (312)814-2121. Demand that he act on the clemency petition that has been sitting on the Governor's desk since Rod Blagojevich's first term as Governor. She has waited long enough to breathe free air.
Read the Chicago Magazine article:: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-06-12/features/0506120513_1_child-abuse-syndrome-shaken
Read the Illinois Times article: http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-8622-caregiver-or-killer.html
Read the appellate opinion that invited testimony from experts that challenge the testimony that convicted her: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/il-court-of-appeals/1500775.html