Despite the 9th Circuit’s third determination that there was not enough evidence to convict Smith of killing her infant grandson based on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered that Smith’s conviction be reinstated.
In the late 1990’s, during the trial of Smith, the Prosecution presented 3 expert witnesses who stated that the death of the infant was due to SBS. The defense presented two experts, one who testified that SBS was not the cause of death, and another who testified that SIDS was instead the cause of death. Despite the conflicting testimony, the California jury concluded that there was enough evidence of SBS and convicted. Upon a federal appeal, three times the Circuit Court in California ruled in favor of the defendant, finding that there was “no evidence to permit an expert conclusion one way or another.” Twice the Supreme Court overruled the Circuit Court and required them to review their decision. This third time, the Supreme Court ended the back and forth, and required that her conviction be reinstated. Smith, who has been living in a run-down shack in Los Angeles for five years, must now return back to prison. The Supreme Court cites the reason for the reversal as “the Circuit Court’s duty not to disturb the jury verdict simply because it would have weighed the evidence differently itself.”
While the role of the American jury is one of the most important and something that we hold sacred to a free society, we must not forget that juries, who often have never heard in detail gruesome facts about a crime or a death, sometimes think with their emotions rather than with cool intellect. Judges hear all sorts of cases and have trained themselves (usually) on how to judge the facts in an unbiased manner and put all the emotions to the side. Thus in a case like this, where the medical facts of an innocent child’s death are at issue, I would rather have my fate governed by a judge who is used to hearing details of this sort rather than a jury. No doubt that Smith would agree with me. However, in her case, the Supreme Court has spoken and is letting the jury’s verdict stand, regardless of any judge’s opinion to the contrary. In this case, with two decision-makers each coming out a different way, the tie has not gone to the defendant.