Babysitter maintains innocence 14 years after conviction

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It’s been almost 15 years since 9-month-old Samaisha Benson died from what’s commonly called Shaken Baby Syndrome. It’s an injury caused by being shaken violently and repeatedly.

A north Columbus babysitter is into her 14th year in state prison after being convicted of killing the child. Kim Hoover-Moore said she’s innocent and she’s been fighting to prove that ever since a judge shipped her off to the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

On the day after Thanksgiving, in 2002, Hoover-Moore was babysitting Samaisha and her 2-year-old sister Dorica, in her north Columbus apartment. The girl’s father had dropped them off with Samaisha still asleep in a carrier. Kim said she put the baby to bed to finish out a nap. When she woke her up later for feeding, she noticed the baby couldn’t hold her head up. Her eyes were open, but not focusing.

She said she called 911 and performed CPR on the infant while waiting for medics to arrive. They rushed her to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where she died three days later. Police arrested Hoover-Moore and charged her with the baby’s death. Shaken Baby Syndrome was suspected.

Following a week-long trial it took a jury only two hours to convict her of murder, felonious assault, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering. Medical experts testified that the baby’s injuries had to have occurred during the time she was in the care of the babysitter. Their thinking at that time was a shaken baby would show signs of the injury not long after it occurred. Since Hoover-Moore was the last person to have the child, the judge gave her a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

Her case caught the eye of the Ohio Public Defenders Wrongful Conviction Section (OPD). OPD lawyers said there was nothing in Kim’s background that made them think she was the killer. Babysitting had been the family business. Kim’s mother had done it for years. Both of them had a history of excellent care of the children entrusted to them.

Since Hoover-Moore’s trial, the medical community has recognized that a child could suffer the injury and not show symptoms for up to three days or longer. The Ohio Public Defenders office said in recent years, dozens of Shaken Baby Syndrome convictions have been overturned across the country. Advances in research now say that something as simple as an infant rolling off a bed or falling out of a high chair could lead to a death. OPD lawyers contend this research alone should easily lead a jury to reasonable doubt in Kim’s case.