How You Can Help a Loving Father Sentenced to Death in Texas for a Crime That Never Occurred 

Robert Roberson could be the first person executed in the U.S. based on the debunked “shaken baby syndrome” hypothesis.

05.29.24 By Alyxaundria Sanford

12/19/23, Livingston, Texas: Robert Roberson photographed through plexiglass at TDCJ Polunsky Unit. Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Innocence Project

Robert Roberson in Polunsky Unit in Texas on Dec. 18, 2023 (Image: Ilana Panich-Linsman/Innocence Project)

Robert Roberson, has spent over 20 years on death row in Texas for a crime that never occurred. In November 2001, he was granted custody of his chronically ill two-year-old daughter Nikki, who tragically, passed away from prior medical conditions after a short fall from bed.

Mr. Roberson, who was a special education student when he dropped out of school after the ninth grade, had undiagnosed autism. Hospital staff judged his response to his daughter’s grave condition as lacking emotion. He was eventually prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to death using a now-discredited version of the shaken baby syndrome (SBS) hypothesis. 

Robert Roberson with his daughter Nikki before she passed away. (Image courtesy of the Roberson family)

Robert Roberson with his daughter Nikki before she passed away. (Image courtesy of the Roberson family)

At the time of Mr. Roberson’s 2003 trial, the consensus in the medical community was that the triad of symptoms observed in Nikki — which included bleeding under the dura membrane outside of the brain, brain swelling, and bleeding in the eyes — proved a child must have been violently shaken, and possibly struck against a blunt surface. The belief was that naturally occurring illnesses or short falls with an impact to the head could not cause this triad of symptoms — an assumption that has since been falsified by actual scientific research.

Each of the SBS premises used to convict and sentence Mr. Roberson to death, considered accepted medical theories in 2003, has since been undermined by evidence-based science. In other words, none of these SBS principles were grounded in science and, since Mr. Roberson’s trial, each has been debunked. 

Mr. Roberson could be the first person executed in the U.S. based on the discredited shaken baby hypothesis. He languishes on death row, unable to support his other children, because Texas courts have ignored advancements in science and compelling new medical evidence not heard by the jury that prove that no crime occurred and that he is innocent. 

“The most unthinkable nightmare for any parent is to lose a child. For Robert, that tragic loss has been compounded by his wrongful conviction and death sentence. All Robert wants is a chance to honor Nikki’s memory by bringing the truth to light and caring for his disabled adult children whose lives have also been completely upended by this miscarriage of justice,” said Mr. Roberson’s lawyer, Gretchen Sween.

Mr. Roberson’s innocence case is attracting growing and widespread support from eminent scientists, doctors, faith leaders, innocence groups, former federal judges, best-selling novelist John Grisham, and the lead detective who testified for the prosecution and now believes he contributed to an innocent person being sent to death row.

Here’s how you can help Mr. Roberson this Father’s Day and beyond.

1. Sign the petition and send him a note of support.

As Mr. Roberson fights to prove his innocence and reunite with his children, add your name to this petition to stop this grave injustice and send him an uplifting letter to keep his spirits up on Father’s Day. These notes of support let him know that people still care about his case and are behind his fight for freedom.

2. Text “ROBERT” to 97016 to receive breaking news and alerts on his case.

Mr. Roberson’s trial was riddled with unfairness and errors. One doctor’s preliminary hunch about shaken baby syndrome was used to arrest Mr. Roberson, even before the autopsy was performed. Despite a new Texas statute that expressly allows revisiting flawed trials tainted by false or misleading scientific evidence, Texas courts disregarded unrebutted scientific evidence proving Mr. Roberson’s innocence.

Stay up to date and informed about breaking news in Mr. Roberson’s case by texting “Robert” to 97016.

3. Share Mr. Roberson’s story far and wide especially to those in Texas.

Share our TikTok and use our social media tool kit on your own platforms.

@innocenceRobert Roberson is an innocent father with autism who could be executed for a crime that never happened. His conviction was based on outdated and refuted science and inaccurate and misleading medical testimony. Robert must have his actual innocence claim fairly considered by a state actor before Texas makes a tragic, irreversible mistake. Add your name to stop this injustice at the link in bio.

♬ original sound – Innocence Project

4. Learn more about the case.

Robert Roberson’s case is filled with unscientific evidence, inaccurate and misleading medical testimony, and prejudicial treatment.The overwhelming medical and scientific evidence now shows that Nikki died of accidental and natural causes. On April 10, lawyers for Mr. Roberson filed a motion to block the Anderson County district attorney from setting an execution date, given strong evidence of his innocence. 

In May, Brian Wharton, the lead detective in Mr. Roberson’s case, who testified for the prosecution during the 2003 trial, said that he now strongly believes that police got it wrong.

“I have come to believe that Nikki died of accidental and natural causes. I am convinced that she was not murdered. Roberson is innocent. There was no crime. I believe this because the “science” that was used to obtain Roberson’s arrest and conviction has changed drastically since his arrest,” Mr. Wharton wrote for The Dallas Morning News

Read seven facts about Mr. Roberson’s case and the scientifically unsound argument that led to his conviction and death sentence.  

Internationally acclaimed author John Grisham wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed about the outdated and now debunked shaken baby syndrome hypothesis used to convict Mr. Roberson and “countless caregivers.” Learn more in this analysis.

Leave a Reply

Thank you for visiting us. You can learn more about how we consider cases here. Please avoid sharing any personal information in the comments below and join us in making this a hate-speech free and safe space for everyone.

This field is required.
This field is required.
This field is required.

We've helped free more than 240 innocent people from prison. Support our work to strengthen and advance the innocence movement.