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ROBERT ROBERSON

TEXAS

Robert Roberson was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Anderson County, Texas in 2003 for allegedly causing the death of Nikki Curtis, his two-year-old daughter. He has long maintained his innocence and seeks a new trial to present evidence that would challenge the State’s false, misleading, and scientifically invalid testimony. At the time of Mr. Roberson’s trial in 2003, “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (SBS) was a widely propounded theory used to explain how infants and small children, presenting with a set of three internal conditions affecting the brain, must have died due to violent shaking perpetrated by whatever adult was with the child when the child became unconscious. In the intervening 18 years, however, serious evidence-based challenges to the controversial theory of SBS have arisen. Studies by forensic pathologists, biomechanical engineers, and neuroradiologists have undermined the degree to which a set of physical symptoms can be interpreted as “proof” that an infant or toddler was intentionally injured through shaking in tandem with some head trauma. Mr. Roberson faced execution on June 21, 2016 but received a stay from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals based in part on what was then a fairly new state law that allows for legal challenges based on changes in the science that had been used to obtain a conviction and death sentence (Article 11.073 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure). The Court sent Mr. Roberson’s case back to the trial court level to consider the merits of four distinct claims, including a “junk science” claim under Article 11.073. Mr. Roberson’s post-conviction proceeding not only challenges the hasty conclusion that his daughter’s death must have been the result of intentionally inflicted injuries attributable to him but also the insufficient attention paid to Nikki’s extensive history of chronic illness—including a raging infection at the time of her death. Mr. Roberson’s evidentiary hearing initially began back in August 2018 but was abruptly halted after one day of testimony when the new district clerk found Nikki’s long-lost head CAT scans stashed in the courthouse basement. In March 2021, Mr. Roberson finally had the chance to present new evidence calling into question the integrity of his conviction during a multi-day evidentiary hearing in Anderson County. After the trial judge makes a recommendation, supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law, the case will go back to the Court of Appeals for an automatic review and a final determination as to whether he has a right to a new trial at last.




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