Exoneree Statement of Support for Robert Roberson
January 31, 2022
We at Witness to Innocence are living proof that our court system can and does make mistakes. We were each victims of wrongful conviction and were sentenced to death for crimes we did not commit. Nationally, 186 people with a death sentence were later exonerated. It is estimated that 4% of those currently on death row are innocent. There is no doubt that innocent people have been executed.
We are concerned about the case of Robert Roberson, who has been on death row in Texas since 2003 despite strong evidence supporting his innocence. He has always maintained his innocence even while his own lawyers agreed with the original prosecutors that “Shaken Baby Syndrome” was the only way to explain his daughter Nikki’s death. As his evidentiary hearing concludes and the courts decide whether to grant a retrial, we urge everyone to look to the facts in this case and the significant new evidence that not only calls into question the integrity of the original verdict but strongly suggests that no crime at all was committed. New evidence indicates that his daughter died of pneumonia and other accidental factors.
Mr. Roberson was convicted based on the now discredited hypothesis known as Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). No actual science supports the hypothesis that shaking could have caused this child’s death. Valid studies in the field of biomechanics show that shaking cannot cause bleeding around the brain with no damage to the neck in any child of her age or weight. Nikki had no neck injuries or fractures of any kind, and what was not investigated until this proceeding was that she was ill most of her short life, including the days leading up to her death.
SBS has sent hundreds of parents and caretakers to prison and to death row despite having been debunked in medical and legal journals.
The Death Penalty Information Center reports that false or misleading forensic evidence, such as SBS, has contributed to over 30% of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases alone.
During Mr. Roberson’s trial, jurors were told that “violent shaking” plus battery to the head, not visible from the outside, was the only way to explain the child’s death. Now it has been established that Mr. Roberson’s daughter had undiagnosed pneumonia, was quite ill leading up to her death, and was given medications that now carry an FDA “Black Box Warning” against prescribing them to a child her age. Nikki stopped breathing and, sadly, did not recover. Her brain, deprived of oxygen, was transformed during the days while she remained in a coma in the hospital before the autopsy. New science shows that her condition had nothing to do with violent shaking or any inflicted head trauma.
Even the lead detective has testified that he does not believe justice was done in this case.
People like me and my fellow death row survivors at Witness to Innocence are living proof that innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death. We are fortunate that the mistakes in our cases were undone before it was too late. When it comes to the death penalty, the cost of getting it wrong could not be higher – there is no way to reverse a wrongful execution. Granting Robert Roberson the new trial he deserves is the very least the courts can do.