The acquittal of Aisling Brady McCarthy could influence the outcome of more than 100 other legal challenges to similar convictions across the US, experts believe.
The Irish nanny, who had been accused of murdering a one-year-old girl in Boston, had charges against her dropped two weeks ago after the state medical examiner found the child had past medical issues and may have had an undiagnosed disorder.
The 37-year-old's acquittal is now likely to have broad repercussions on future cases and past convictions, based on "outdated" SBS [Shaken Baby Syndrome] and AHT [Abusive Head Trauma] diagnoses.
Kate Judson, a clinical director at University of Wisconsin Law School and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, said there are more than 100 such convictions that are being challenged by a nationwide network of innocence project lawyers.
She told Peter Schworm of The Boston Globe: "Part of the problem is outdated science. Practice and testimony in courts have not kept up with science."
The publication also reports that the Supreme Judicial Court – the highest court in Massachusetts – is determined to provide clear guidance in future when it comes to diagnosing the deaths and serious injuries of infants and toddlers in cases where there are no independent witnesses.
That court is currently considering two appeals, both which involved men who were convicted of causing permanent injuries to children they were minding.
In one of the cases, the lawyer for one of the convicted men is basing his appeal on the testimony of the same physician who provided the recently-discredited diagnosis against the Irish nanny.
Melinda Thompson, McCarthy's lawyer, said that in both of the cases that are being appealed there was a rush to judgment, where physicians told the prosecutors what they needed to charge someone with a crime, but without any serious consideration of underlying health issues of the children who turned up with brain injuries.
Thompson said: "In Aisling's case, Dr. Newton never put pen to paper. We asked her for notes. But there were none."
Thompson also said the Irish former nanny, who is now back in Ireland trying to re-build her life, is fully supportive of her efforts to challenge convictions of people found guilty on evidence similar to that which was presented in her case.
She added: "Aisling just doesn't want anyone else to go through what she did."
McCarthy, from Cavan, spent two-and-a-half years in jail before charges against her were dropped.
Since returning to Ireland, she celebrated her wedding anniversary with her husband, Don, for the first time. The pair married just four months before she was arrested in relation to the death of one-year-old Rehma Sabir.