Suzanne Johnson

County of Conviction:

Convicted of:





case details

Suzanne Johnson was an at-home daycare provider in San Diego. In 1997, a child in her care tragically and accidentally fell from a high chair and died. Suzanne was charged with intentionally harming the child under a now outdated scientific theory.

In 1989, Suzanne Johnson embarked on a journey as an at-home daycare provider in San Diego, California. Families and friends hailed her as a caring, professional, and warm individual, making it hard for anyone to believe she could harm a child.

The turning point in Suzanne’s life came on June 24, 1997, when she called 911 after baby Jasmine, under her care, became limp and struggled to breathe. Earlier that day, Jasmine had fallen from a high chair, unknowingly aggravating a prior head injury. Despite rescue efforts, Jasmine tragically lost her life.

Instead of being treated as a grieving caregiver, Suzanne found herself the prime suspect in Jasmine’s death. The medical examiner claimed intentional abuse led to Jasmine’s demise, setting in motion a legal battle against Suzanne.

The prosecution argued that Suzanne, upset about unpaid fees and frustrated with Jasmine’s crying, deliberately harmed the child. Five experts testified against Suzanne, alleging that Jasmine’s injuries were not accidental. Despite two trials, the first resulting in a hung jury, Suzanne was convicted of assault on a child causing death, receiving a life sentence.

Years later, advancements in forensic pediatric pathology challenged the reliability of the scientific evidence that had condemned Suzanne. Scientific understanding of conditions like “Shaken Baby Syndrome” had evolved, discrediting much of the testimony that formed the basis of Suzanne’s conviction.

The once-called “triad” of symptoms associated with abuse cases was no longer considered definitive proof. Experts now knew that infants could appear normal after serious head injuries, and even minimal force could cause severe trauma. Suzanne’s claims aligned with these newfound scientific facts.

Further investigation revealed crucial details ignored during Suzanne’s trial. The breathing tube placed incorrectly during resuscitation efforts contributed to Jasmine’s tragic fate. The enhanced 911 tape contradicted the assumption that Jasmine was already dead when Suzanne called for help.

Clemency petitions were filed with Governors Brown and Newsom. On March 27, 2020, Governor Newsom granted Suzanne Johnson’s clemency petition, acknowledging the injustice she endured.

On April 3, 2020, Suzanne walked out of Central California Women’s Facility, free after spending 21 years in prison for a crime she did not commit. 

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