Grandmother In High-Profile Shaken Baby Case Has Sentence Commuted
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Alicia Cypress
Friday, April 6, 2012 at 4:52 PM
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The California governor commuted the sentence of Shirley Ree Smith, who already served nearly a decade in prison, citing "significant doubts" that she killed her 7-week-old grandson.

   
Shirley Ree Smith, whose prison sentence was commuted by California Gov. Jerry Brown, began creating greeting cards for her grandchildren while she was incarcerated. While she was out of custody after a series of legal appeals, until today, she still faced the possibility of returning to prison.
Shirley Ree Smith, whose prison sentence was commuted by California Gov. Jerry Brown, began creating greeting cards for her grandchildren while she was incarcerated. While she was out of custody after a series of legal appeals, until today, she still faced the possibility of returning to prison.
Courtney Perry for NPR

A California grandmother convicted of shaking her 7-week-old grandson will not return to jail, because Gov. Jerry Brown has commuted her sentence.

On March 29, NPR's Joseph Shapiro and ProPublica's A.C. Thompson told the story of Shirley Ree Smith, who had already spent years in prison until the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals set aside her sentence after finding her case was likely "a miscarriage of justice." A series of appeals later, she was facing a return to prison.

But an investigation of her case by NPR, ProPublica and PBS Frontline found that a senior medical examiner in the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office sharply questioned the forensic evidence used to convict her.

This afternoon, Brown commuted her sentence.

"In light of the unusual circumstances in this particular case, the length of time Ms.Smith has served in prison, and the evidence before me that Ms.Smith has been law-abiding since her release from prison, I conclude that reducing her sentence to time served is appropriate," Brown said in his order.

NPR's story was part of Post Mortem, NPR's series with ProPublica and PBS Frontline, examining flawed autopsies and death investigations. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]



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