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Columbus woman's exoneration makes history

Kim Hoover-Moore was exonerated last month in what's known as a "shaken baby syndrome" case. Hoover-Moore was falsely convicted of the crime in 2003.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Columbus woman’s wrongful conviction has made history in Ohio and nationwide, and now the National Registry of Exonerations is taking notice.

“It's important to have a record of these injustices,” Simon Cole said.

Cole is the director of the National Registry of Exonerations. He’s also a professor of Criminology Law in Society at the University of California Irvine. 

The registry is a collaboration between the Newkirk Center for Science and Society at UC Irvine, the University of Michigan School of Law and the Michigan State University School of Law. It has tracked every known exoneration in the United States since 1989 and was started in 2012 with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.

Cole said although we’d like to believe it’s rare, wrongful conviction is actually more common than most people realize.

“It’s a very large judicial system, so nationwide it makes mistakes fairly regularly,” Cole said.

Cole said the registry will soon add Kim Hoover-Moore, 57, of Columbus to its records.

She was exonerated last month after new evidence came to light, in what’s known as a “shaken baby syndrome” case. She was initially convicted at trial in 2003 based on a coroner’s assessment that a nine-month-old girl, Samaisha Benson, died in 2002 in Hoover’s care and suffered from shaken baby syndrome. Hoover-Moore always maintained her innocence.

She spoke with former 10TV anchor Jerry Revish about her ordeal and how spending 19 years in prison, wrongfully convicted, affected her physical and mental health.

“This is a monumental event, and it was by the grace of God and the people that took an interest in me to make sure this happened and they never gave up and I cannot thank them enough,” Hoover-Moore said.

When Hoover-Moore’s case is added to the registry, it will be one of 25 exonerations in shaken baby syndrome cases nationwide and the first in Ohio.

“In the vast majority of those cases, it's changing medical opinion. Usually that's, you know, the diagnosis of what's commonly called shaken baby syndrome or sometimes called abusive head trauma, is controversial,” Cole said.

Since 1989, the registry shows 2,883 people in the United States have been exonerated after a wrongful conviction.

“It doesn’t mean it’s terrible but it does mean you have to take a skeptical look at the results of our justice system,” Cole said.

Hoover-Moore’s attorney is Joanna Sanchez, who heads up the Wrongful Conviction Project with the Ohio Public Defender’s Office. She said she thinks this case is a blueprint for other similar shaken baby cases.

“I think that this case can serve as a guide for those cases and can show both defense attorneys and prosecutors and judges that we need to take a careful look at these cases in light of the developments surrounding shaken baby syndrome in recent years,” Sanchez said.

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