Criminal Justice

New study identifies hotspots for shaken baby syndrome prosecutions

What do Sarpy, Neb., Richmond, Ga.; Weber, Utah; and Summit, Ohio, have in common?

They are all counties with higher-than-average rates of shaken baby syndrome prosecutions, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by Northwestern University’s Medill Justice Project, is believed to be the first to identify the places where people are most often accused of shaken baby crimes. The findings were released Tuesday.

In addition to those counties, the study found that Nebraska ranks first among states with the most shaken baby syndrome cases per 100,000 people, followed in order by Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ohio. A high concentration of cases was also found in Queens, N.Y.

The study identifies several possible explanations for the higher rates of shaken baby cases in certain regions, including aggressive prosecutions, influential physicians, heavily enforced state laws and heightened media scrutiny.

Shaken baby syndrome is a highly controversial diagnosis that has long been the subject of a bitter debate in legal and forensic science circles.

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