Dear Governor Northam,
We are writing you today to ask you to look into the case of Trudy Munoz and, if you see fit, consider a pardon. As you may well be aware, Ms.Munoz was convicted of child abuse or neglect and willful or negligent cruelty or injury to a child in her care due to “shaken baby syndrome,” a largely discredited medical explanation for infant deaths that has lead to numerous wrongful convictions across the country.
On April 20th, 2009, Ms. Munoz noticed one of the children at her home day care had gone limp and stopped breathing. Ms. Munoz immediately began performing first aid and then called 911, managing to revive the child and save his life. When the police arrived to investigate, she was cooperative and answered all of their questions for an hour and a half. The next day, a detective from the Fairfax police department and a social worker from the office of Child Protective Services arrived at Ms. Munoz’s home to investigate the incident. The social worker also acted as a translator for Ms. Munoz on that day. While no audio recording of this conversation was taken, the social worker’s translation was a large part of the prosecution’s evidence and was treated as a confession, despite Ms. Munoz never signing the document and questions as to whether or not the language may have been mistranslated.
When the child arrived at the hospital, doctors performed a CT scan which showed brain swelling and blood behind the eyes and beneath the skull, symptoms that doctors in 2009 largely believed to be caused by shaking a child. This was the second piece of evidence the prosecution used to convict Ms. Munoz. She insists she did not do that and has steadfastly maintained her innocence.
In the ensuing years since her conviction, numerous studies have cast grave doubt on the causes of “shaken baby syndrome,” and several convictions based on this outdated science have been vacated. Similarly, the evidence in this case suggests that it is exceedingly likely Ms. Munoz is innocent and has spent nearly 10 years in prison for a crime that she did not commit. The Innocence Project at the University of Virginia has taken up Ms. Munoz’s case.
As you undoubtedly are aware, Virginia law makes it exceptionally difficult to challenge a final conviction, even on the basis of newly discovered scientific or medical evidence. Ms. Munoz is therefore unable to obtain a new trial through the judicial process and, as a Peruvian citizen having been convicted of a felony, faces imminent deportation when she is released from prison.
In your role both as the Governor of Virginia and as a pediatrician, we are asking you to consider Ms. Munoz’s case for a pardon. We trust that your judgement on the facts and science available now will lead you to a fair and just decision.
Arlington Young Democrats