Run 5k a day for 22 days: Justice for Tasha Shelby

by Emily Girvan-Dutton in Bristol, Bristol City, United Kingdom

Total raised £3,610

raised so far

34

supporters

I am raising money to travel to Mississippi to provide justice for the wrongfully convicted Tasha Shelby.

by Emily Girvan-Dutton in Bristol, Bristol City, United Kingdom

New stretch target

There are other people out there in the US who are currently being wrongfully imprisoned on a shaken baby syndrome diagnosis. We currently have in mind a case concerning someone on death row following a shaken baby syndrome based conviction. Extra money would enable us to provide justice for cases like this. 


From the 5th April to the 27th April 2022, I will be running 5k every day - bringing it to a total of 5k a day for 22 days (just for context - it has been roughly two years since I last ran 5k!) This is to raise money for a trip to Mississippi this summer to work on Tasha's case on the ground.

Why 22 days? 22 is the number of years for which Tasha Shelby has been wrongfully imprisoned after being convicted of capital murder by a jury in 2000. 

The case

On the 30th of May 1997, two-and-a-half-year-old Bryan Thompson IV was taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Immediately, doctors identified him as having suffered blunt force trauma to the head and turned to blame the adult that was caring for him last - Tasha Shelby. These doctors, having been taught that shaken baby syndrome was a real diagnosis, viewed Bryan's injuries as having been caused by Tasha shaking him. 

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The prosecution gathered a team of doctors who had also been taught the same thing and they testified about shaken baby syndromes' perceived legitimacy. The jury, convinced by this, found Tasha Shelby guilty of capital murder without parole, narrowly avoiding the death penalty.

However, Tasha Shelby's conviction was based on science that has since been disproven and never had any foundation to begin with. 

In 2015, Dr Riddick, one of the prosecution's medical experts, re-examined the evidence and made an affidavit explaining that he changed his mind and no longer believed Bryan had been shaken. Instead, he highlighted evidence that showed Bryan had been suffering from a seizure condition that caused the head injuries that had been confused for those required for a shaken baby syndrome diagnosis. 

Dr Riddick then changed the death certificate from 'homicide' to accident, with reference to the seizure condition. 

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There are other reasons why Bryan could not have died from shaking. One is that his injuries did not meet the 'triad' of injuries required for a shaken baby syndrome diagnosis. The 'triad' requires that all three injuries (subdural haemorrhage, retinal haemorrhage and hypoxaemic encephalopathy) be presented in order to diagnose. However, Bryan did not have any retinal haemorrhaging. 

In addition, it's impossible to imagine a woman such as Shelby, two weeks after giving birth to baby Devon by cesarean section, as having enough strength to inflict the injuries that Bryan suffered. 

Ultimately, our main reason for rejecting Bryan's cause of death as shaking is because of the fact shaken baby syndrome is no longer considered good, proven science. 

Guthkelch’s work in the 1970s, which originally set out the shaken baby syndrome diagnosis, fails to meet the requirement of the scientific method. He provides no evidence for the fact of shaking being indicated, let alone proven, by the triad. Forty years later, Guthkelch himself observed that there was still no evidence for the hypothesis, as he expressed horror that it had been used as established science to imprison parents or to take away their children.

A wealth of papers have since come out that reveal the lack of evidence for shaken baby syndrome. Instead, these works demonstrate that it is impossible for a person to generate enough force to inflict these injuries upon a baby by shaking, even car crashes struggle to meet enough force to satisfy the 'triad'.

Read more:

Despite all the overwhelming evidence that both proves Tasha's innocence and the falsehood of shaken baby syndrome, her appeals have been unsuccessful. Tasha, and parents and carers worldwide facing similar wrongful convictions, are being denied justice.

Please help us prove Tasha's innocence and help secure her freedom

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The project 

Astrid, my case partner, and I have been examining Tasha's case for almost a year. We have compiled all the evidence we can on this side of the ocean. 

We have been assisted by members of Tasha's legal team, those closest to Tasha, and other extremely generous Mississippians who share our wholehearted belief in her innocence. 

Now, all we need is funding to pay for flights, travel and transport, rent, and other living costs for our two month trip to Mississippi. 

Whilst we are over there, we plan to build on the evidence and investigation plan we have compiled to put together a plea for clemency or find another way to exonerate her. 

We will interview key witnesses, including her family, friends, and those who knew her at the time, medical experts, on both sides of the shaken baby syndrome divide, and the jury. 

We are incredibly passionate about providing Tasha with the justice and freedom that has been denied from her for 22 years. We hope you share in our passion and consider donating to our fundraiser. 

Thank you!

Read a report published earlier this year that my case partner and I co-authored on shaken baby syndromes prevalence in British courtrooms. 

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