Grounded or ‘Shaky’: How Mobilizations of Expert Knowledge Affect Legal Outcomes in Shaken Baby Syndrome Cases
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This project examines how expert witnesses affect legal outcomes in shaken baby syndrome (SBS) cases. The connection between shaking and intra-cranial injury in infants is heavily debated within the medical community. This paper explores the relationship between medical knowledge and legal prosecution using documentary analysis of court decisions. In addition, this project uses semi-structured interviews with five medical professionals and one legal professional. The interviews reveal that there is a moral and consequence based dilemma for the professionals involved in cases of suspected child abuse or shaking. The documentary analysis reveals how medical expertise is subjective in terms of how it influences court proceedings in shaken baby cases. What is evident from the analysis is that perceived credibility of experts can influence the perception of medical evidence. There is anthropological literature about knowledge, science, medicine, and expertise. However, there is less written in the field about the relationship between scientific expertise and the legal system. This research contributes to the small body of anthropological literature on the connection between law and medical evidence.