Criminal Justice and Legal Reforms in Response to Fatal Child Maltreatment

  • Emily M. Douglas


The challenges associated with the investigation, prosecution, and convictions in cases of child abuse and neglect have been well documented for decades. Limited evidence, young victims, a reluctance to come forward, and there is stigma about maltreatment hinder criminal prosecution. Many of these same problems exist in the criminal prosecution of fatal child maltreatment. The difficulties include law enforcement failing to recognize a crime scene when responding to the death of a child, obstacles because prosecution maltreatment-related deaths do not always meet the legal definition of murder, and juries failing to believe that parents could hurt or neglect their own children enough to cause their death. This chapter outlines the criminal justice responses to fatal child maltreatment and the changes that have taken place over the last several decades: changes in investigation techniques, state statute to permit more harsh sentences for taking the life of a child, and overturning religious shield laws. Finally, the chapter discusses the efficacy of these changes with regard to seeking justice for fatally maltreated children.


Fatal child maltreatment Child maltreatment and criminal justice response Child death laws Religious exemptions to child maltreatment Religious shield laws and child maltreatment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily M. Douglas
    • 1
  1. 1.Bridgewater State UniversityBridgewaterUSA

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