MISSOULA — Prosecutors have dropped a homicide charge against a Montana father whose conviction for killing his 3-month-old son was overturned in 2018, officials said.
The dismissal is part of a plea agreement between Robert James Wilkes and prosecutors that was signed Jan. 21, The Missoulian reported Wednesday.
“I have been waiting for this moment for many, many years,” Wilkes said in a statement. “I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life as a free man.”
The charge was dismissed in exchange for a plea of no contest to criminal endangerment, officials said.
Wilkes had been sentenced to 40 years in prison following his 2009 conviction for deliberate homicide.
Prosecutors said Wilkes killed his son, Gabriel, by causing head trauma in a case of what has become commonly known as shaken baby syndrome.
Wilkes maintained his innocence and the Montana Innocence Project took up his case in 2012.
The Innocence Project found the medical science offered as evidence was “long outdated and discredited,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday.
New medical science showed Wilkes’ son could have died due to a preexisting medical condition and Wilkes’ defense attorney had failed his client by not providing the new science as a rebuttal to prosecution evidence, Innocence Project attorneys said.
The medical examiner who performed an autopsy on the child listed the cause of death as “undetermined,” which Wilkes’ attorney did not present at his trial.
Missoula prosecutors re-filed the charges after his conviction was overturned, setting the case up for another trial. The parties reached the plea deal “on the eve of trial,” court documents said.
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