Anderson County, Texas District Attorney Requests Execution for Robert Roberson, Despite a Conviction Obtained with Debunked Forensic Science

Posted: June 20, 2024




On June 17, 2024, Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell filed a motion to set an execution date for Texas death row prisoner Robert Roberson, despite his steadfast maintenance of innocence in the death of his two-year-old daughter. Mr. Roberson has spent more than 20 years on death row for a crime that, according to the Innocence Project, “never occurred and a conviction based on the outdated and now debunked shaken baby hypothesis.” New evidence indicates that Mr. Roberson’s daughter, Nikki, died from a combination of both accidental and natural causes. In a brief of opposition, Mr. Roberson’s attorneys argue that Nikki died from “severe undiagnosed pneumonia that caused her to cease breathing, collapse, and turn blue before she was discovered unconscious.” Rather than identifying this pneumonia, doctors prescribed Nikki with a dangerous medication that is no longer given to young children, as it is known to suppress respiration in already infected lungs. “There was a tragic, untimely death of a sick child whose impaired, impoverished father did not know how to explain what has confounded the medical community for decades,” the petition outlines.

At the time of DA Mitchell’s request for an execution date, Mr. Roberson’s Motion for Notice and Opportunity to Be Heard Before Any Execution Date is Set, requesting a court hearing, remains pending before Texas’ 3rd Judicial District Court. This motion explains that, since June 2016, Mr. Roberson’s attorneys have developed new evidence of his factual innocence in the death of his daughter. Mr. Roberson has another pending suggestion in front of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA), asking the Court to reconsider their previous ruling. The suggestion argues that another case, Ex parte Roark, also pending before the TCCA, shows that “the State conceded the falsity of virtually identical expert testimony on the shaken baby hypothesis.” Both Mr. Roberson and Mr. Roark were sentenced to death more than two decades ago using this theory and testimony from the same child abuse expert. The Dallas County prosecutor has conceded that Mr. Roark should receive a new trial because of changes to scientific knowledge, but DA Mitchell’s office has continuously argued that the science in Mr. Roberson’s case has not changed.

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