LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Governor Jerry Brown is considering granting clemency for a 51-year-old woman convicted of shaking her infant grandson to death.

Shirley Ree Smith has served a decade behind bars for a murder she says she did not commit and for the first time in 15 years, she is breaking her silence.

“This is terrible… I’m innocent. I didn’t do what they said I did. There is no way. No way,” said Smith, who has been fighting for her innocence for nearly two decades.

“I wrote over 200 letters. I have called. And you think no one will hear you and you think no one will hear you,” she said.

Her emotional journey began inside a Van Nuys complex on Roscoe and Sepulveda Place in 1996. Smith moved from Illinois to help care for her daughter’s four grandchildren.

While babysitting one night, Smith says she found her 7-week-old grandson lifeless. Paramedics said that it was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome but the coroner ruled that Smith had shaken the baby to death.

She was later convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life despite testimony from Smith and her only daughter that she would never harm the kids.

“There was no physical signs of the shaking. Well that is just not consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome medical literature,” said, Michael Brennan, Smith’s appellate attorney.

Smith spent 10 years at Frontera Women’s Prison in Chino.

In 2006, a federal appeals court ordered her released, finding that the coroner presented theories and not enough forensic evidence.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, ruling this Fall that the appeals court overstepped its bounds and ruled that Smith would have to go back to prison.

“There’s still a fight because she is not because she’s not able to do what she wants to do, go where she wants to go without having to ask anybody,” said Yolanda Phagan, Smith’s granddaughter.

CBS2 talked to Smith’s daughter, Tomeka Fagan, by phone in Minnesota who said that she would like to see the Supreme Court overturn their previous decision.

“It’s really hard. It’s very hard. Prison is so horrible. It’s just so horrible. It becomes even more horrible when you don’t belong there,” Smith said.

Smith is expected to be re-incarcerated within the next few weeks if the Brown doesn’t act on her clemency petition.

Comments (20)
  1. The Big Logic says:

    ‘Tomeka’….now we know the ethnicity anyway.

  2. c j barrett says:

    Shaken Baby Syndrom is a scam just as the SIDS convictions were. It usually occures in children under 1 yr with pre-existing conditions. It is the one area of criminal law wherein the Guilty beyone a reasonable doubt is dependant upon a triad of symptoms that do not recognise situations that ape shaken baby such as reaction to shots and allergies, and completely ignores pre-existing conditions such as birth injuries etc. For more info google Shaken baby Syndrom and look for “rethinking shaken baby Syndrom Most countries no longer recognise the triad as outlined in criminal law in the US

  3. Ray says:

    CJ so are you saying that you can’t shake a baby to death I think you are an IDIOT.

    1. c j barrett says:


      Yes you can shadke a baby to death but most convictions are based on the tiiad I outlined. There is no consideration of intent or accident. . A true shaken baby would ha ve neck r spinal cord injuries. Most convictions are based on the triad I utlined and the last person who touched tyhe baby is convicted

      1. c says:

        I hope SBS “IS” a scam. Now it will be child abuse and manslaughter…making all that other stuff you mentioned irrelevant…and she’d be in the slammer for good.

  4. c j Barrett says:

    It is never irrrelevant when an innocent person is convicted of a crime they duid not commit. Trraaaight child abuse requires a higher degree of abuse than SBS. Most shaken baby Syndrom cases are basedf on false schiece that is not recognized by anyone except prosecutors and DA’s who are more interested in conviction rates than in the truth. PLEASE Google it as I suggested and follow the various Links that prove my case

  5. c j barrett says:

    I ment to say that most shild abuse cases require a higher degree of proof than a conviction for shaken baby syndrom. If they had this higher degree of proof they would have filed child abuse in the first place. Again follow the info on GOOGLE

  6. ILOVELA4EVER says:


    1. c j says:


      Based on the article, I don’t understand why you say Guiolty Anyway, no excuses. In so many of these cases the charges were never proven. . I believe that all of these cases should be reviewed. Especiallyy those in which the convictions are based solely on phony science which amounts to if you touched the baby last you did it and should go to prison

  7. Maria Alvarez-Garcia says:

    You have clearly not been affected by a loved one of Shaking Baby Syndrome. I personally have. My name is Maria Alvarez-Garcia. I am the maternal grandmother of Adam Carbajal. My precious grandson was a victim of Shaking baby Syndrome at the age of one, 7 years ago.. I don’t understand how anyone would consider giving clemency to someone, no matter what relationship they have to a child, for killing him. The baby had bleeding in the brain for gods sake, the coroners ruled it was not consistent with SIDS. I am outraged that this lady is out inspite of the Supreme Court overturning the appeal. I am speaking on behalf of that innocent baby since obviously noone from his family is. Etzel Glass deserves justice even if it’s from someone that should of loved him and protected him.. Please, I am begging to please think of Etzels right for justice. Ms. Smith chose to do what she did to her precious grandson, so why should she not pay the consequences for that? Alot of “phony” doctors dispute Shaking Baby Syndrome and it’s beyond me why… My grandson and other precious innocent children are proof that it exist. Ms. Smith deserve the sentence she was originally given..15 years to life and no mercy, sympathy nor clemency!!!10 yeras is NOT nearly enough for what she CHOSE to do to her grandson!!! I am going to fight this clemency petition until the end, with media support and all the support I have been getting!!! Everyone that agrees with me, please contact Gov. Brown and tell him so!! I have all the links on my facebook wall-Gracias and have a great day!! FB Maria Alvarez Garcia-Adam Carbajal

    1. c j barrett says:

      In recent research it has been shown that babies have bellding on the brain for other reason beyond shaking baby syndrom. most of so called perpatrators have not idea what happened. They were just caring for a fussy baby and the baby went limp and since they were the last one to touch the baby they are convictecd. please read the literature. Again, yes there are a few rare cases of true shaken baby syndrom but in these cases thr charge in straight child abuse. If a baby is shaken that hard one would find neck and spinal cord injuries, not a baby with no other injuries. I feel for you but please note that a DA who is after a quick conviction is going to incluude you in the prosacution. Be brave and look into the datails for yourself

      1. Adam's Grama says:

        cj barrett, the comments above are especially for you….

  8. Factual Findings says:

    All this barrett ever says is educate yourself, and everyone’s fighting him? Appaling. He shares facts, and tells you to go read more. That is worth argument? Why not just go get educated. You’d rather read what mainstream news has to say. I’m more worried about all our kids because of you, the complacent ones who choose to accept corrupt rulings without even studying a lick of anything the paper doesn’t force feed you. I’m not on either side of this clemency charge, I speak for finding the truth, maybe you all should open your eyes and minds, a person sharing facts should never be witch hunted, rude. He even managed several responses without talking any trash, despite those who’d rather let emotions control logic against he.

  9. Sue Luttner says:

    This discussion illustrates how rational thought can break down in the face of our inborn urge to protect the children. I ache for everyone involved.

    Difficult as it is for most people to believe, CJ Barrett is correct: The theory of shaken baby syndrome is not withstanding the test of time. The symptoms that define SBS can indeed result from abuse, but they can also represent any of a long and growing list of legitimate medical conditions. In Ms. Smith’s case, only one of the three symptoms was present. Her innocence is almost certain.

    For the rare case of a family eventually cleared after shaking allegations, please see http://onsbs.com/prologue/

    1. Maria Alvarez Garcia-Adam Carbajal says:

      Like what? Explain to me what can cause SEVERE bledding in the brain, SEVERE swelling of the brain, SEVERE retinal hemorrhage on a VERY healthy one year old baby boy?. The many doctors that treated him at the Childrens Hospital did not find a medical expalnation.. You people need to realize and be open minded that there is evil in alot of people, even grandparents that are capable of hurting children!! Ramon Curiel denied it for so long that he was not responsible even on a stack of bibles to finally admitting that he lost his cool because the baby would not stop crying!! There are many victims affected by SBS, so all these victims had other medical explanations other than SBS that alot of different doctors from different parts of the Country were not able to find?

      1. Sue Luttner says:

        Please accept my condolences on your loss. The death of a baby is a painful tragedy for the extended family.

        And you’re right: Infant abuse is and remains a problem.

        In my experience, however, many children with underlying medical conditions have been misdiagnosed as shaking victims. Because Etzel Glass had only of the three symptoms that define SBS, his case is very likely a misdiagnosis.

        The list of medical mimics is long and getting longer. It includes inborn metabolic and bleeding disorders, vitamin deficiencies, infections, and more. My point is that the symptom cluster by itself does not prove abuse.

        Again, I’m so sorry for your loss.

      2. Maria Alvarez garcia-adam carbajal says:

        sorry, no matter how much people try to justify this horrible reality, IT HAPPENS. what are the odds in a generic disorder?Thousands and thousands of children die or are severely injured because idiots can not control their temper. In my case, the boyfriend Ramon Curiel denied and denied and denied, like most criminals that he did not do it until I guess for convenience he plead guilty and finally admitted that he “lost his cool” because the baby would not stop crying. Paula, if this had happened to you, I guarantee you, you would not be making excuses or try to find a reason behind as to why people do heinous crimes against our children. No,my precious Adam was not vaccinated before he was injured in someone else hands. Simple as this, alot of people lack common sense and most of all, love for a child!!

  10. Paula says:

    Has anybody asked whether this baby had recently been vaccinated? There have been many children who died from a shot reaction. Go to the website for the National Vaccine Information Center. Or an underlying genetic disorder that caused what looked like shaken baby? Dr. Holmes Morton of the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, PA has testified in several cases where there was genetic problem that caused brain damage.

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