Lauryn Barbosa Findley

  • Hosted by Northern California Innocence Project
  • Sponsored by Fenwick & West LLP
  • Service location Santa Clara, California
  • Law school Santa Clara University School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform, Criminal Records Relief
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Lauryn created a systematic approach to identifying and litigating wrongful shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma convictions (SBS/AHT); initiated post-conviction litigation in numerous cases and actively advocated for post-conviction reversals; and used data gathered through case identification and litigation to inform future efforts to change the way unreliable science is used in these kinds of cases and prevent future wrongful convictions.

Science has revealed the lack of evidence for SBS and shown the diagnosis is unreliable. Medical advances have shown there are many other causes of the findings upon which the diagnosis is based, and courts across the country have begun to reverse SBS convictions. Despite this, thousands of indigent people remain in prison without access to the legal resources necessary to challenge their wrongful convictions. While wrongful convictions in general disproportionately impact people of color, convictions based upon false SBS diagnoses are further subject to explicit and implicit biases as race and poverty are considered risk factors for abuse.

Lauryn grew up in a family that was impacted by the criminal justice system and is committed to providing a voice for those incarcerated. When she learned that SBS might be the largest cause of wrongful conviction, she became passionate about assisting those who have suffered an unimaginable double-tragedy: they lost a child. They then were wrongfully blamed for that loss and sent to prison as a result.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Lauryn:
  • Identified and received responses from 54 incarcerated and 6 formerly incarcerated people who are believed to have been wrongfully convicted on the basis of unreliable medical testimony about SBS/AHT
  • Collected transcripts and began review in 27 cases
  • Contacted forensic experts and initiated reviews in five cases thus far
  • Wrote, edited, and filed two petitions for writ of habeas corpus
  • Built relationships with clients through letters and prison visits, and built relationships with clients’ families
  • Presented this project to the Innocence Network Conference in 2022, which has spurred other Innocence organizations to replicate this project in multiple other states across the country

Next Steps

Lauryn will continue working on this project at the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) as there is still so much work to be done and there are so many people awaiting justice. Lauryn is looking forward to her transition into a staff attorney at NCIP. She is grateful for the opportunity to continue advocating for people whose lives the criminal legal system has stolen, specifically those that have lost a child and then been wrongfully imprisoned for it…truly a double tragedy.


Lauryn Bruton-Barbosa JD ’20 awarded a prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowship to work with the Northern California Innocence Project

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