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After 16 Years, MN Grandmother Granted Clemency In Baby Death

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A 51-year old Alexandria woman convicted of shaking her infant grandson to death was granted clemency Friday after a 16 year battle with the courts.

Prosecutors said she killed her grandchild in a case of "shaken baby syndrome." Shirley Ree Smith has always maintained her innocence. On Friday, WCCO-TV talked exclusively with Smith who says she's looking for justice.

"Everything is new right now. I just want to take it one day at a time," Shirley Ree Smith said.

For his first time ever, California Gov. Jerry Brown granted clemency. Smith said this was not without a fight.

"You keep fighting, you keep fighting, you keep fighting," Smith said.

Prosecutors said Smith killed her grandchild in a case of "shaken baby syndrome" while babysitting at her daughter's Los Angeles home in 1997.

Although paramedics said it was "sudden infant death syndrome," the coroner ruled otherwise. Smith served a decade in prison.

"Ten long years," Smith said.

In 2006, she was released by a U.S. Court of Appeal who said the coroner presented theories and not enough forensic evidence.

Five months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated her conviction, ruling that the Appeals Court overstepped its bounds, threatening to throw Smith back to prison.

Since, Smith has been living in Alexandria waiting for action on her petition for clemency. She lives with her supportive daughter, the mother of the child she was charged with killing.

"That's what counted, that's what counted," Smith said.

Just last week, an investigator at the coroner's office said publicly that the evidence was flawed, leading to the Governor's decision.

"I would like to thank the governor of California," Smith said. "Today is a great day."

The crime will still be on Smith's record.  Her attorney says she plans to pursue overturning her second-degree murder conviction.

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