Last Thursday, Robert Wilkes was given renewed hope that one day soon he may have his life back. Since 2009, Wilkes has been serving a 40-year sentence for the death of his son in Montana. Prosecutors claimed that the infant died of Shaken Baby Syndrome but the Montana Innocence Project presented medical evidence in court demonstrating that the child quite likely died of other causes. Based on the compelling new evidence uncovered in the case, Wilkes’ conviction was overturned last week and he was freed.
According to the Missoulian, the Montana Innocence Project began representing Wilkes six years ago. The project asked a number of medical experts to review Wilkes’ case. The experts found that the three-month-old baby’s death was not the result of abuse; rather, there was evidence of a pre-existing medical condition.
The Montana Innocence Project also revealed that the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on the infant found that the cause of death was “undetermined,” and that Wilkes’ defense attorney had failed to present that critical information at trial. Based on that newly discovered evidence, District Court Judge James Haynes issued an order last Thursday which said that Wilkes’ conviction should be overturned because his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel had been violated.
Wilkes said in a statement: “I have been waiting, hoping, and praying for this moment for many years.”