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Contested ‘Shaken-Baby’ Murder Conviction Highlights Need For ‘Conviction Integrity Unit,’ Dem AG Candidate Says

Tasha Shelby was sleeping in the bedroom of her Biloxi, Miss., home when a bumping noise woke her up, she would later recall. She told authorities that she went to her stepson’s bedroom and found 2-year-old Bryan Thompson lying on the floor having an apparent seizure; he died soon after.

At the time in June 1997, medical examiner Dr. Leroy Riddick did not believe Shelby’s story and claimed Thompson died of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Harrison County prosecutors charged Shelby, age 25, with capital murder and a judge sentenced her to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2000.

But in 2017, Riddick testified that he “made a mistake,” KKTV reported.

“I made a mistake on my conclusions and given the information I have now, … the child died from hypoxic encephalopathy with herniation due to a seizure disorder,” the doctor told KKTV in 2017.

He updated the child’s death report, ruling it as an accident in 2018. The former medical examiner died in 2021.

But five years after Riddick officially revised the cause of death on his death certificate, Shelby remains in prison. Her family has been fighting for her release and asking elected officials to step in and reverse Shelby’s conviction for years. People convicted of a felony can appeal their convictions under the Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act.

Martin To Create Investigative Units

Standing with a group that included Shelby’s aunt Penny Warner outside the Walter Sillers State Office Building in Jackson on Oct. 24, Democratic candidate for attorney general Greta Kemp Martin proposed creating a “conviction integrity unit” to help uncover wrongful convictions.

“At its core, a conviction integrity unit is dedicated to investigating claims of wrongful convictions,” she said. “It has the capacity to reexamine cases in which new evidence has come to light, instances where prosecutorial misconduct is suspected or situations where doubts linger regarding the original conviction.”

Tasha Shelby has been serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole since a court convicted her of capital murder in the death of her 2-year-old stepson, Bryan Thompson, in 2000. Prosecutors based the case

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