Preparing for Court
Navigation through the legal system can be an emotional and trying time for families
affected by shaken baby syndrome.
Most states have victim advocacy programs that can provide court accompaniment to family members. Volunteers participating in this program often have in-depth knowledge of local criminal courts and procedures as well as laws and sentencing guidelines.
One of the most important aspects of court accompaniment is the prevention of re-victimization to survivors. Court accompaniment can help restore a sense of power and control to families affected by shaken baby syndrome and minimize emotional pain.
Information provided to family members should include:
- Familiarization with the layout of the courtroom
- Role of the prosecutor and defense attorney
- Rights of victims and survivors
- Rights of the defendant
- Date and approximate length of time the trial may last
- Possibility of continuances
- Specific charges and penalties
- Plea bargaining (opportunity for family input)
- Guilty verdict (beyond a reasonable doubt/unanimous)
- If called as a witness, will they be allowed to sit through the trial
- The possibility of being subpoenaed in order to keep them out of the courtroom
- Clarification of legal terminology
- Choosing whether or not to remain in the courtroom when exhibits are being displayed, such as hospital or autopsy photos, clothing, etc.
- Choosing whether or not to remain in the courtroom when testimony that may cause further trauma, such as medical examiner's report, conflicting opinions, etc. is given.
- How to respond (or not respond) to the media.
Court advocates should be cautious to not attempt to provide legal advice, make statements that reflect negatively on those working within the legal system or make predictions regarding the outcome of the case.
More information can be found at:
Office for Victims of Crime
How You Can Help
If you are familiar with the legal process and would like to support a family affected by shaken baby syndrome through the court process, please contact your local victim advocacy program.