Bronze-level articleAlan Yurko

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Mug shot of Alan Yurko, after being arrested for killing his 10 week old infant son.

Alan Yurko was convicted in 1999 for the murder of his then-girlfriend's 10 week old infant. The case at trial was shown to be a tragic, though classic, example of shaken baby syndrome. For some reason, however, the anti-vaccination movement latched on to the case and organized an internet based "Free Yurko" campaign, blaming the infant's murder on vaccines. In 2005, Yurko's conviction was overturned on appeal due to sloppy work by the medical examiner on the case. Instead of a new trial, Yurko pleaded no contest to manslaughter, received "time served", and was released.[1] In 2008, Yurko returned to jail for an aggravated burglary charge. He is scheduled for release in 2014.

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[edit] A violent history

A month before the death of baby Alan Ream, Alan Yurko was sitting in jail for the crime of aggravated burglary -- that is, burglary where a deadly weapon or the threat of bodily harm was involved. Yurko was paroled and then proceeded to violate that parole, moving to Florida with his girlfriend and her infant son.[2] Shortly after moving to Florida, Alan Ream, while under Yurko's sole care, had to be rushed to the hospital with massive subdural hematoma. Alan Ream died in the hospital due to injuries received from massive trauma. The police investigation immediately turned to the child's step father, a convicted violent offender, who was brought in after the reported injuries to the child were consistent with shaken baby syndrome. Yurko attempted to escape from prison, but was unsuccessful, with that charge added to the list. Alan Yurko was tried and convicted of first degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years.[3]

[edit] Free Yurko

Anti-vaccination quacks latched on to Yurko and attempted to create a martyr from his conviction. An internet campaign was started, called Free Yurko and a mailing list was set up. People were directed to bombard prison officials, courts, and medical doctors with letters demanding an immediate release.

The group took over Yurko's appeal, turning it into a giant tirade of conspiracy and anti-vaccination rants. The case was overturned on appeal and is often argued as a success by anti-vaccination groups. However, it is important to realize that the judge threw out for appeal the reasons not involving vaccination issues. Instead, sloppy work by the medical examiner with a known history of carelessness was viewed as egregious enough to warrant a new trial. The errors were not necessarily related to the findings of shaken baby syndrome, but rather typographical errors such as referring to the child as black when he was white, and mixing up the timing reports for when the organs (which were donated) were removed from the body.

[edit] Back in jail

The martyrdom success story for the anti-vaccination group gets pretty muddy after his release. Yurko was picked up for a parole violation in his aggravated burglary charge, and is now back in jail until 2014. The violent nature of the conviction, the fact that he is still in jail, and evidence that Yurko has a long history of confrontations with the law (parole-skipping, escape attempts) mar the otherwise perfect story they want to tell. You will be hard pressed to find any anti-vaccination group that will follow the story past Yurko's successful appeal.

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Whitby, Bob (2003-01-23). "Bad science". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved 2010-04-5.
  2. PDF copy of Ohio defender record
  3. PDF of Florida defender records
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