Update - 8/23/20

Marsha Byers Mills has been in prison for more than 13 years after being wrongfully convicted of a crime -- murder -- that never happened. On March 10, 2006, Noah Shoup, a 2-year-old in her care, fell down the steps of her back porch in New Philadelphia, OH, onto the concrete sidewalk. He died the following day in Akron Children’s Hospital after being transferred from Union Hospital in Dover, OH.

On this date, Aug. 23, 2020, Marsha is observing her 70th birthday in the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville, where a number of inmates and staff members have tested positive for the pandemic Covid19 virus. Her stay at ORW has been exemplary, and it is our hope that she will be granted clemency and be allowed to return home before the pandemic spreads further within the prison.

She is represented by the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, which accepted her case biased on the decision that she is factually innocent. According to the OIP website, the pro bono organization, to which she applied in 2012, accepts only 0.004 percent of the thousands of cases it receives.

At the time of the child’s death, paramedics told courthouse workers and the media that Mills must have shook the boy to death, a theory known as Shaken Baby Syndrome. The key prosecution witness in her trial in June 2007, Dr. Daryl Steiner, had already been proven wrong at least three times in court in relation to SBS by the time Mills went to trial. Her public defender, who was presented that information, did not mention those wrong diagnoses or ask Steiner if he had ever been wrong about SBS. Since then, Steiner has been proven wrong at least three additional times in court, and has retired from Akron Children’s Hospital where he was considered a child abuse expert.

The National Registry of Exonerations lists 22 people accused of SBS cases who have been exonerated – found innocent. Those decisions were based on science, lack of evidence or the determination that the injuries or deaths were caused by other means, including undiagnosed medical issues, short falls as in the Mills case, and illnesses. There have not been any adult witnesses to these SBS “incidents” that Mills’ supporters have found.

Her vast groups of advocates continue to seek her freedom through the courts and by any means possible, and have the support of many groups and individuals who do not know her but also believe in her innocence. Among those supporters are members of the legal community and law enforcement.

The Ohio Supreme Court, in a 3-2 vote, declined to consider her case though at least two justices believed in its validity. In 2013, after a three-year wait, a federal judge in Akron also turned down her request for habeas. Her attorney, hired and paid by her supporters, also submitted a request for further consideration by a three-judge panel of the federal court, but that was unsuccessful.

Mills, who was watching her own two young grandchildren and Noah's 4-year-old brother, was originally represented by a public defender who did little to preserve her rights or set the record straight, allowing allegations and theories by the prosecutors and their "expert" witnesses to prevail while her own expert witness, Dr. John Plunkett, was prevented from testifying about his research related to short falls and deaths

Since her conviction, there has been much scientific research and data to challenge the theory of Shaken Baby Syndrome, and doctors who originally supported this, including Dr. Patrick Barnes who testified for the prosecution in the British nanny's case in Boston in 1997, have reconsidered their stances. Barnes now says in retrospect he doesn't believe shaking was involved in that infant's death. He personally contacted Mills’ supporters through e-mail to encourage Team Marsha to pursue work on short falls.

More and more cases of SBS convictions are being reversed. A number of cases involving testimony of Dr. Steiner have been disproved and the alleged "abusers" have been cleared. In December 2013, Northwestern University's Medill Justice Project released its national survey that showed that Summit County (Akron, home of Akron Children's Hospital and Dr. Steiner), ranks fourth in the nation in the number of SBS cases. Remember, Steiner was found to be in error in a number of cases. In many situations, the trauma and havoc on the accused’s parents, families and friends have been extensive. For poor families, it may mean losing a child or children forever to social services.

In the meantime, Marsha Mills remains incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, and during that time her father has died as well as other relatives and friends. Some of those friends were supporters whom she'd never met, but wrote her faithfully to encourage her.

Her deep faith, work ethic and appreciation for her family, friends and supporters have allowed her to become a notable mentor to a number of troubled inmates, and she is respected by inmates and staff alike.

But she is innocent, and it is past time for her to come home.