Pamela Jacobazzi, now 57, who ran a small day-care service in her Bartlett home, is serving a 32-year prison sentence for the shaken-baby death of 10-month-old Matthew Czapski. A jury convicted her of first-degree murder.
At the time of her conviction, shaken-baby syndrome was a largely uncontested diagnosis, the project said in a release. The diagnosis was associated with three symptoms: brain bleeding, brain swelling and bleeding within the eyes.
With all three symptoms present, officials often accused the last caregiver of abuse, believing the symptoms surfaced instantly and catastrophically, the project said.
"In recent years, however, a number of medical studies have shown the triad of symptoms may also arise from less sinister causes," Alec Klein said in a statement.
Klein is director of the Medill Innocence Project and professor in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.
The project said 10 undergraduate journalism students in a fall investigative class led by Klein talked with medical experts, reviewed studies, and interviewed Jacobazzi's family, neighbors and former clients. They also filed five Freedom of Information Act requests and obtained thousands of pages of court records, police reports, and hospital, pediatric, medical examiner and children and family services documents, the project said.
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