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Iceland Shaken Baby Case Reopened

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Iceland Shaken Baby Case Reopened

gavel as used in courts

Photo: sxc.hu.

The Icelandic Ministry of the Interior’s Appeal Committee has determined on Friday that the case of Sigurður Guðmundsson, who in 2003 was convicted for having caused an infant’s death by shaking him violently, is to be reopened.

“I am of course incredibly pleased with it being reopened but am moderately optimistic about what happens next,” Sigurður told RÚV. In spite of having served an 18-month sentence, he has always maintained his innocence.

Sigurður said it never occurred to him in the past 14 years to give up; he has, for example, taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights. “I have a strong sense of justice. I don’t know what happened on May 2, 2001, and that is what has driven me.”

Sigurður explained on RÚV’s news magazine Kastljós last January how on May 2, 2001, he had found the nine-month-old boy, who was among 21 children in a daycare center he and his ex-wife ran, to be unconscious in a stroller in a heated garage where he had been put to sleep earlier.

The baby was breathing but wouldn’t wake up. Sigurður handed the boy to his wife and called an ambulance. He never woke up and died at the hospital almost 48 hours later.

The autopsy concluded that the boy had three symptoms coinciding with shaken baby syndrome, or abusive head trauma, as it is now known.

The autopsy report, in addition to the assumed strain of being responsible for so many children in daycare, led to Sigurður’s conviction. He was found to have shaken the baby brutally, leading to his death.

Sigurður stated he had never shaken the boy.

Dr. Waney Squier, a professor in neuropathology at Oxford University, hired by Sigurður’s lawyer to evaluate the evidence in the case, stated on Kastljós last January that the traditional diagnosis for shaken baby syndrome is obsolete and that the findings in the boy’s autopsy had been inconclusive.

Dr. Squier claimed that the symptoms mentioned in the autopsy report could be the result of head trauma but don’t prove that the baby was shaken. Had the boy been shaken brutally, he would have bruises and fractured ribs, she reasoned.

Dr. Squier mentioned other possible reasons for his death, including infection leading to a blood clot in the brain and Vitamin D shortage. The boy had been ill in the days prior to his death.

Shaken baby syndrome has been disputed in recent years. In Sweden, courts doubt that verdicts can be based on symptoms thought to indicate the syndrome.

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