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Law Enforcement Investigative Issues (From The Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Multidisciplinary Approach, P 237-262, 2001, Stephen Lazoritz and Vincent J. Palusci, eds. -- See NCJ-195979)

NCJ Number
Michael Vendola
Date Published
26 pages
The four cornerstones of a criminal investigation of suspected shaken baby syndrome (SBS) are medical and pathological findings; recording the scene and the lawful seizure of evidence; background investigation; and statements, interviews, and interrogations of witnesses and suspects.
It is important for investigators to know the signs and symptoms associated with SBS. This paper lists key questions investigators should ask witnesses in determining whether the victim manifested symptoms of SBS. Regarding recording of the scene and the lawful seizure of evidence, investigators should determine whether a caregiver called 911 for emergency services; if so, the original tape should be seized as evidence. Statements on the 911 call should be compared to subsequent caregiver statements. In most cases, caregivers are presented with the option of endorsing a consent search. The author suggests steps for conducting the consent search. Detailed instructions are also provided for recording and controlling the scene. Another cornerstone of a thorough SBS investigation is the background investigation. This includes obtaining the complete and certified copies of medical records of the victim's current hospitalization; determining the normal activities of the victim in the weeks prior to the current episode, with attention to the 96 hours prior to the presentation of victim symptoms; and obtaining information on suspects, their relationships, and their behaviors. The fourth cornerstone of a thorough SBS investigation is the statements made by the caregivers. These include the initial accounts, interviews, and interrogations. In the course of interviewing the caregivers, the investigator must never suggest a mechanism for the injury. Detailed guidelines are provided for a thorough interview of a caregiver, including the formal interrogation of a single prime suspect. The paper concludes with discussions of investigation dynamics and procedures after the arrest of a suspect. 18 references and appended supplementary information on investigative procedures