Supreme Court declines to stop Texas from executing man over ‘junk science’ conviction
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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied Robert Roberson’s request for a new trial.
Roberson, 56, was convicted in 2002 of shaking his 2-year-old daughter, Nikki, to death at his home in Palestine, Texas.
Shaken baby syndrome is a controversial child abuse theory that has since been discredited and has led to many wrongful convictions across the country. An appeals court in New Jersey recently ruled that shaken baby syndrome was “junk science.”
Prosecutors in Roberson’s case presented brain swelling as evidence, which was considered to be proof of child abuse at the time.
Roberson’s attorney, Gretchen Sween, argued there is evidence that shows Nikki died from pneumonia.
“She was a very sick child given inappropriate medication. She also at some point in the night fell out of bed and bumped her head,” Sween said.
Sween added that Roberson has autism, and he was arrested and convicted because he had a non-typical reaction to his daughter’s death.
“There was no crime,” she said. “And you have this highly impaired, inexperienced father who wakes up in the morning to find his child not breathing, turning blue, and he rushes her to the hospital, and it is immediately judged as uncaring and guilty because he doesn't show neurotypical emotions.”
The Supreme Court did not give an explanation for its denial of Roberson’s appeal, which began in 2016 when he was just days away from execution.
Roberson’s last chance would be to rely on Gov. Greg Abbott to grant clemency, something that is unlikely.
An execution date is expected to be scheduled in the coming days.
“Texas seems poised to execute a man who committed no crime, except that he was a man with autism who was unable to explain the very complicated medical condition of his two-year-old child,” she said.