Convicted baby killer fights to clear her name - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Jailhouse Interview: Convicted baby killer claims science should set her free

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

When most people think about how science has helped uncover wrongful convictions, we think about DNA. But now, increasing numbers of defendants are using science to challenge convictions that were based on shaken baby syndrome; defendants like Pam Jacobazzi.

14 years ago, Pam Jacobazzi of Bartlett was convicted of killing a 10-month-old baby, in a case of shaken baby syndrome. Jacobazzi still insists--as she did then--that she's innocent.

"I'm a caring and loving person. I don't hurt people," Jacobazzi tells FOX 32's Larry Yellen in an interview. "I would never ever hurt any child. I love children."

A jury, though, after hearing Jacobazzi's story, found her guilty. She had run a daycare center out of her home; caring for four children. One of them was Mathew Czapski. Prosecutors proved the infant suffered massive brain trauma while in Jacobazzi's care; injuries that came from being violently shaken.

Jacobazzi was sentenced to 32 years in prison. She's due to be released in May of 2015, having served half of the sentence.

"The hardest part is being away from your family and your loved ones," she says. "I think that's the hardest part."

Tell that, however, to Matthew's parents, who declined to be interviewed for this story, but at sentencing told the judge, "All of our dreams are gone. We will never know what could have been. The sky would have been the limit for our baby boy."

Jacobazzi says she understands, but she wasn't the killer.

"I understand what a loss it was. However, I am innocent and I did not harm Matthew," alleges Jacobazzi. "I loved Matthew like one of my children."

Jacobazzi is now asking for a pardon or commuted sentence from Governor Pat Quinn. Her clemency petition contends that in recent years, nationwide, Shaken baby syndrome has been questioned as a possible killer and that Matthew had previous medical conditions which could have explained his death.

Attorney Anthony Sasson is handling her petition for clemency.

"You have a wrongful conviction based solely on a medical theory, a scientific theory that no longer is recognized by science," says Sasson.

Jacobazzi's attorneys claim that in the so-called triad of injuries apparent in traditional shaken baby cases a thin layering of blood over the brain, combined with swelling of the brain and retinal hemorrhaging, cannot be produced by a violent shaking. There also must be some impact--like a child being thrown to the floor, or punched.

DePaul Law Professor Deborah Tuerkheimer has just finished writing a book, in which she argues that the shaken baby analysis is flawed. She says there are too many other potential causes of for that triad of medical symptoms.

"Now, it is generally conceded that there are other possibilities, that other causes of the triad exist," Dr. Tuerkheimer explains. "And, some of those are natural causes, some of those might involve an impact, or some kind of an accident, but doctors generally believe that this triad is far more ambiguous that it was once thought to be."

Some doctors, though, like Pediatric Neurologist John Ruge--who treats dozens of children's head injuries every year--say findings of shaken baby syndrome are legitimate.

"It's still the most common cause of head injury and death in infants," says Dr. Ruge of Advocate Children's Hospital."

Doctor Ruge says limiting convictions to cases where impact injuries can be proven would miss numerous cases of abuse. He says he's seen cases where surveillance cameras caught babies being shaken or worse, but only the internal injuries to the brain were evident.

"These babies would be slammed or thrown across the room, or thrown down hard," Ruge adds. "They would have absolutely no evidence of external injury, but be devastated by the injury."

DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin declined to be interviewed regarding the Jacobazzi case, but in a statement said: "The jury found, and it was proven, that the baby died of shaken baby syndrome. My office stands by the conviction and the jury's finding of guilt."

DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin declined to be interviewed about the Jacobazzi case, but provided a statement saying in part: "The jury found, and it was proven, that the baby died of shaken baby syndrome. My office stands by the conviction and the jury's finding of guilt."

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