A Kokomo man who a jury convicted of felony counts of murder and aggravated battery in the death of an 8-week-old infant was spared Friday of life in prison without the possibility of parole by that same jury.
Instead, the 12-member jury recommended a sentence for a set amount of years in prison for Jaquail Smith, 23.
During what the court labeled "phase two" of a trial that lasted most of the week, the prosecution didn't present any evidence on Friday, instead arguing that the one main factor in determining whether Smith should spend life in prison without parole was that the victim, August Minniear, was less than 12 years of age.
Most of the morning was spent from the defense's side, who told the court that there were several other factors that outweighed what the prosecution said, addressing Smith's multiple diagnoses and struggles in school while growing up.
The defense also brought forth a therapist's letter which stated that Smith was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — or ADHD — and other emotional and cognitive issues.
And though defense attorney Mark Dabrowski said it's "hard to argue something outweighs an 8-week-old child's life," he also said those factors should be taken into account when determining a sentence of life in prison without parole or just a recommendation for a set amount of years.
Dabrowski then ended those arguments by asking the jury if they believed Smith could redeem himself and if he'd even have the will to do so if he had in fact been given a life sentence.
The range of years that Smith will be expected to serve runs from 45 to 65 years in prison, with the exact amount to be determined by Howard County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Murray at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, July 10.
Smith took the stand Thursday in his own defense, telling the court that he loved young August Minniear like his own son. Smith also testified that he wasn't involved in August's death, instead stating that it was August's mother, Kinzie Minniear, who injured her son.
Testifying that Kinzie would often suffer bouts of depression, Smith said that Kinzie was with August in the bedroom of their apartment in the 1300 block of East Alto Road on Nov. 8, 2017, and as she left to run errands, she told Smith not to go into the bedroom where August was laying on the bed.
Smith then testified that he eventually fell asleep on the couch but woke up about 90 minutes later and went to check on August, finding him not breathing and with a swollen head. Smith also told the court that when Kinzie came home from her errands, she didn't want to immediately go to the hospital or contact her family.