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Missoula man exonerated in 2008 death of infant son

U.S. Supreme Court preparing to hear two Montana cases
Posted at 4:01 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 16:16:56-05

MISSOULA — A judge has exonerated a Missoula man who spent nine years in prison after he was convicted of killing his infant son following a lengthy legal battle.

Robert Wilkes was sent to prison after prosecutors say he killed his three-month-old son in 2008 after shaking him violently.

The Montana Innocence Project took on the case after new medical evidence showed the baby had a preexisting medical condition that contributed to his death and he did not die of what the prosecution says was "shaken baby syndrome”.

The Montana Innocence Project also claimed Wilkes did not have sufficient legal representation at trial and that medical evidence was not presented showing the child died of something other than abuse.

His initial conviction was overturned in 2018 and Wilkes was preparing for a new trial until reaching a plea agreement on Wednesday where he pleaded "no contest" to a charge of criminal endangerment.

Judge Leslie Halligan approved the state’s recommendation that Wilkes be set free.

The Wilkes case marks the seventh recent exoneration for the Montana Innocence Project in the last four years.