27 October, 2006

Marianne Williams: not guilty.

Leading on from yesterday's post about Roy Meadow, which highlighted the possible dangers of relying on expert testimony in criminal cases, comes the trial of Marianne Williams, charged with murdering her baby by feeding him too much table salt. The prosecution argued she did it because she was depressed. The defence argued that the death was a tragic side effect of medical treatment requiring high levels of sodium chloride. Other than the testimony of expert witnesses, the prosecution had no proof. The verdict - not guilty.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

Miss Williams' lawyer Jacqui Cameron said that there was a worrying trend for mothers to be charged with murder on the basis of evidence that is "at best, as complex and, at worst, dubious".

"Clinicians are far too prone to point fingers of suspicion at persons who are already vulnerable," she said.
Exactly the point I was trying to make yesterday: the medical profession should know better. Expert witnesses presenting opinion and theory as fact is unacceptable. It is indeed encouraging that, as Williams' lawyer continued,
"The verdict today gives us hope that the general public is learning the lessons that doctors are failing to learn despite other high level cases such as Sally Clark, Trupti Patel and Angela Cannings."
Those are the the three women convicted of child murder after dubious expert evidence from Meadow.

The Telegraph also quotes a Detective Inspector as saying that,
the decision to press charges was only taken after a "meticulous review" of all the evidence.
Heh. Hands up all those who think Plod can spell epistemology, let alone understand the complex issues involved. They were out of their depth; but, to be fair to the police, they were reliant on experts who were every bit as arrogant as Meadow. Perhaps such reprehensible behaviour by expert witnesses should be identified as a syndrome. Meadow's Syndrome by Arrogance?


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