Robert Roberson Remains on Death Row Despite Defense Claims – District Attorney Requests Execution Date in October

Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

By Sarah Chayet

PALESTINE, TX – The Innocence Project press release Tuesday announced attorneys of Robert Roberson—a man charged with the murder of his daughter and now on death row in Texas—are in opposition to the Anderson County District Attorney’s (DA) request for an execution date.

Robert Roberson was arrested on the grounds of what the Innocence Project describes as an out-of-date shaken baby hypothesis—the brief offers further details of the circumstances surrounding his daughter’s death, and how interpretations of Roberson’s autism may have impacted his conviction.

According to the press release, Roberson was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003. The Innocence Project attributes the assumption made by hospital staff—Roberson had an unemotional demeanor—to his undiagnosed autism.

“He was unable to explain his chronically ill two-year-old daughter’s complex medical condition when he took her to the emergency room, after she fell out of bed when sick with a high fever, undiagnosed pneumonia, and on drugs that doctors prescribed that we now know are unsafe for children her age and in her condition,” stated the Innocence Project.

The Innocence Project added the shaken baby hypothesis has been disproven since Roberson’s arrest, and the real cause of death was because “of natural and accidental causes.”

The Innocence Project quotes the opposing brief, which recognizes the child’s cause of death as “a severe undiagnosed pneumonia that caused her to cease breathing, collapse, and turn blue before she was discovered unconscious.”

Brian Wharton, former Assistant Chief of the Palestine Police Department, was the lead detective working at the time of Roberson’s conviction, who now regrets his role in Roberson’s conviction, noted the Innocence Project.

“I testified for the prosecution and helped send Mr. Roberson to death row in 2003. For over 20 years, I have thought that something went very wrong in Mr. Roberson’s case and feared that justice was not served,” said Wharton in the press release.

Wharton added, “I have come to believe that Nikki died of accidental and natural causes and that there was no crime. I am convinced that Mr. Roberson is innocent.”

The defense  brief continues, “It is irrefutable that Nikki’s medical records show that she was severely ill during the last week of her life. Instead of identifying her pneumonia, she was prescribed dangerous medications, no longer given to children her age (she was only two) and in her condition.”

In a separate article, the Innocence Project described the parameters of the shaken baby hypothesis used to convict Roberson, which rested on observations Nikki exhibited signs that coincided with the hypothesis. However, the Innocence Project argued the symptoms Nikki showed were caused solely by pneumonia, medications, and a subsequent fall.

Despite these contributions to the Roberson case, the Anderson County DA remains unmoved in taking action to reconsider Roberson’s position as an inmate on death row, the Innocence Project points out.

“Each of the shaken baby syndrome premises used to convict and sentence Mr. Roberson to death, considered medical orthodoxy in 2003, has since been debunked by evidence-based science. The courts or Gov. Abbott must stop this miscarriage of justice before it is too late,” said Gretchen Sims Sween, Ph.D., J.D., one of Roberson’s attorneys.

The Innocence Project noted Roberson has two different pending court matters, one of which is meant to be heard before the setting of an execution date and to reevaluate the evidence used against Roberson in his conviction based on the findings in a similar case.

The opposing brief by Roberson’s attorneys states Anderson County DA’s requested execution date is Oct. 17, 2024.

About The Author

Sarah graduated from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo with a bachelor’s degree in English with a Technical and Professional Communication Certificate. In addition to being an author for the Vanguard Court Watch Program, she is a proofreader at CalMatters and works as a museum guide.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for