BGL attorney Lauren Kelleher recently appeared on Lava for Good’s Wrongful Conviction podcast alongside BGL client Clarence Jones, a Baltimore County father who spent 18 years in prison for murder based on a “shaken baby syndrome” (SBS) conviction that was set aside when Mr. Jones received his Writ of Actual Innocence in 2021. In addition to Lauren, Kobie Flowers and Neel Lalchandani represent Mr. Jones.
Lauren and Mr. Jones spoke to criminal justice reform advocate and founding board member of the Innocence Project Jason Flom about the injustice Mr. Jones and his family suffered and their ongoing fight for accountability. Jason and Lava for Good were named Champions of Justice by the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project earlier this month for their work amplifying the voices of so many wrongfully convicted men and women.
As Mr. Jones recounted to Jason, his son, Collin, had a series of medical issues from the time he was born and ultimately developed sepsis leading to his tragic death in 1998 at 10 weeks old. Despite Collin’s complex medical history, doctors diagnosed Collin with SBS mere hours after he arrived at the hospital for the final time because he presented with symptoms that were then considered automatically diagnostic of SBS.
“It was clear this was a moving train of SBS from the start, and everyone had bought into it hook, line, and sinker,” Lauren told Jason.
As a result, Mr. Jones was sentenced to 30 years in prison, of which he served 18. Mr. Jones, who has always maintained his innocence, was released in 2017 with the help of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, where Neel proudly serves as a board member.
In the decades since Mr. Jones’s wrongful conviction, the medical consensus regarding SBS has changed. Experts now contend that Collin died of natural causes—a disease process that accounted for the SBS “symptoms” he presented with at the time of his death.
BGL is seeking wrongful conviction compensation for Mr. Jones under the Walter Lomax Act. The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office continues to contest Mr. Jones’ innocence and his eligibility for compensation under the Act. Case proceedings are ongoing.
In closing, Lauren summarized the depth of Mr. Jones’s ordeal: “Imagine the worst thing that could ever happen to you. And now imagine that everyone is saying it’s your fault, and you have to sit in a court room and listen to them say terrible things about you and what kind of person and father you are. And then imagine spending 18 years in prison. Imagine not only that, but you’re not able to see your baby for a large portion of the last parts of his life because the police have told you you’re not allowed to go to the hospital. And then, after your kid is taken off life support, you’re given a couple of moments and you’re handcuffed and taken away. That’s what happened to Clarence. And he is, all these years on, still in the process of fighting to get the State to admit that what happened to him was wrong and that he deserves some remedy for it.”
Lauren joined Brown, Goldstein & Levy in February 2022. Before joining the firm, she served as an Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division where she investigated and litigated against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic, including work on the Purdue bankruptcy. She also has experience representing individuals and groups of plaintiffs in workplace discrimination and harassment cases as well as consumers in products and financial services litigation. Read more about Lauren Kelleher here.
Founded in 1982, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a law firm based in Baltimore, Maryland, with an office in Washington, DC. The firm is nationally recognized in a wide variety of practice areas, including complex civil and commercial litigation, civil rights, health care, family law, and criminal defense. Above all else, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a client-centered law firm that brings decades of experience and passionate, effective advocacy to your fight for justice.