OLATHE, Kan. — Would an innocent person take a plea deal with no chance to appeal?
Aaron Snyder, 27, of Olathe says he did. Now he’s serving seven years in a Kansas prison. He was originally facing life in prison after Johnson County prosecutors charged Snyder with 1st degree murder for the January 2011 death of his three-week-old son, Logan.
FOX 4 spent months reviewing the Aaron Snyder case and the questions it raises about Shaken Baby Syndrome, a diagnosis that’s facing new questions in the legal and medical community.
Snyder had called 911 on January 19, 2011 and told dispatchers that his son wasn’t breathing. The child was already dead by the time paramedics arrived just minutes later.
Investigators determined the baby’s death was a classic case of Shaken Baby Syndrome because the child had suffered internal brain bleeding. Police spent hours interviewing Snyder in an attempt to get him to confess to abusing his son but Snyder maintained his innocence.
FOX 4 obtained interrogation tapes where detectives can be seen asking Synder, “Did you pick him and slam him down? No. Have you ever done anything along those lines? No. Have you ever smacked him in the head? No. Accidentally? No.”
In May of 2012, just before his trial was to begin, Snyder pleaded no contest to 2nd degree reckless murder. It was a 10-year sentence but with good behavior Snyder could be out in seven years.
It was a plea deal his own defense attorney Paul Cramm didn’t want him to take.
“There’s never been a case in my career that I more desperately wanted to try,” Cramm said.
Snyder’s father, Chad Snyder, added, ” I don’t believe there are 12 jurors that would’ve convicted him with our evidence.”
Chad Snyder and his wife are now raising Aaron’s other child, a 5-year-old boy. Aaron’s girlfriend, Anna Grover, the mother of both boys, never returned messages left by FOX 4, but we know she lost custody of her 5-year-old son after Logan’s death. It was Aaron’s confession to Grover that prosecutors say sealed their case.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Chris McMullin told FOX 4 that just two days after Logan’s death, “Aaron told her that he had shaken the baby.”
Snyder’s defense attorney, Paul Cramm, says the so-called confession was taken out of context.
“He’s actually demonstrating the gesture of having the infant over his shoulder patting the baby’s back and bouncing up and down, so he’s probably thinking of consoling, bouncing and he uses the word ‘shaking’ and when that word is repeated in the correct circles and gets back to law enforcement the case was closed,” said Cramm.
Prosecutor McMullin admits that girlfriend Anna Grover appeared to believe in Snyder’s innocence at his sentencing. FOX 4 asked McMullin if he was troubled that two pathologists were prepared to testify for the defense that there was no forensic evidence that Logan died from Shaken Baby Syndrome. His reply, “Not at all, not at all, we did extensive research.”
One of those defense experts is Dr. Jan Leestma, a Chicago pathologist. He believes Logan died from a subdural hematoma, which is basically prolonged bleeding on the brain.
“If this baby were shaken the best evidence is the neck would be broken and it’s not,” Leestma said. “We have a skull fracture in this child, in the back but it looks to be healed there’s no fresh bleeding, no recent bleeding.”
It turns out that when Logan was born at Olathe Medical Center, he came out of the birth canal arm-first. Doctors were so worried they immediately x-rayed his arm fearing it was broken. It wasn’t, but defense experts now wonder if that’s when Logan fractured his skull and may have have been slowly bleeding on the brain ever since.
Watch the video to see what Aaron’s attorney says and how the Johnson County Medical Examiner responded.