An Australian appeals court acquitted on Thursday Australian mother Kathleen Folbigg, who was wrongfully convicted of both murder and manslaughter in May 2003 based on the death of her four infant children. In overturning her conviction, the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal cited evidentiary issues with the prosecution’s reliance on circumstantial evidence and the likelihood that the four children died as a result of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).The court found that new scientific evidence “substantially diminished any probative force of what had been relied on at the original trial.” Ultimately, the court concluded, “[T]here is now reasonable doubt as to Ms. Folbigg’s guilt.” As a result, the court ordered that Folbigg’s conviction on the four deaths of her children be quashed.Folbigg’s criminal trial was largely influenced by the—since discredited—Meadows Law, rather than direct evidence. Meadows Law stipulated that “one infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious, and three is murder.” Because four of Folbigg’s children died, she was considered to have committed murder. The prosecution also relied upon several diary entries that suggested Folbigg’s guilt. Folbigg was thereafter sentenced to 40 years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 30 years. This sentence was later reduced on appeal to a non-parole period of 25 years.In November 2020, an international team of scientists published a research paper which provided scientific evidence that the death of  Folbigg’s children were likely to have been the result of rare genetic factors. In other words, the children likely died of natural causes. This subsequently prompted a further inquiry into Folbigg’s conviction. Concerns over the lack of a reliability standard in the Australian justice system also emerged, as there is currently no standard which requires that evidence introduced in criminal cases meet a certain level of reliability.In March 2021, a team of Australian scientists and medical professionals also generated a petition for the New South Wales (NSW) Governor General Margaret Beazley to pardon Folbigg in accordance with section 76 of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001 (NSW). Folbigg was unconditionally pardoned on June 5.Following her acquittal, Folbigg delivered a public statement in front of the NSW Supreme Court:I am grateful that updated science and genetics have given me answers as to how my children died. However, even in 1999, we had legal answers to prove my innocence. They were ignored and dismissed. The system preferred to blame me rather than accept that sometimes children can and do die suddenly, unexpectedly and heartbreakingly.The Australian Academy of Science, which acted as an independent adviser to the investigation into the evidence against Folbigg, also celebrated the court’s Thursday decision. At the same time, he academy warned, “But make no mistake, that without law reform, these sort of miscarriages of justice will continue.”

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