Mother acquitted in shaken baby syndrome case

A court in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan, has acquitted a woman who allegedly shook her baby violently, leaving him with serious aftereffects to the brain.

Asano Akane, aged 27, was indicted for seriously injuring her three-month-old son in 2016 by shaking him forcefully. The boy is suffering from permanent brain damage.

In court hearings, prosecutors argued that the baby had no visible external injuries to his head but developed symptoms in the brain such as swelling and a subdural hematoma, or bleeding.

They said such symptoms could only have been caused by acts of force such as vigorous shaking and demanded a five-year prison sentence for the mother.

Asano's defense team insisted on her innocence, saying that the symptoms occurred after the baby fell from a sofa. The lawyers said that it is disputable that the symptoms were a result of shaking.

Presiding Judge Deguchi Hiroaki at the Gifu District Court said that the seriousness of the symptoms show there is a possibility that they were caused by a fall from the sofa.

He added that there is some reasonable doubt that shaking caused the baby's trauma.

This is the latest in a series of shaken baby syndrome cases in Japan in which caregivers have been acquitted of abuse charges.