After more than six hours of deliberation, a jury on Thursday found a Kokomo man guilty of felony counts of murder and aggravated battery in the death of an 8-week-old infant that was under his care in November 2017.
Jaquail Smith, 23, sat motionless in his chair as Howard County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Murray read the verdict, while members of the victim's family seated in the back of the courtroom quietly murmured phrases like "thank you Jesus" and "yes, yes, yes."
Neither family wished to make a public comment regarding the case to the Tribune.
The three-day trial saw several witnesses testify, including forensic pathologists, police officers and even the victim's mother.
And in an unusual move, 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.
And when asked why he didn't approach police with any complaints or information about Kinzie's alleged behavior before Thursday, Smith told the court that he wanted to protect Kinzie and also didn't want August to be taken away from the couple.
During cross-examination, Prosecutor Mark McCann told the court that Smith has a pattern of not telling the truth. McCann also asked Smith about his drug use the day August died, in which Smith did say he was under the influence of marijuana. During a drug screen at the time, Smith also tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine.
In his closing arguments, McCann said Smith's allegation that Kinzie was the one that cause the injuries was false. McCann said that Kinzie was a "young mother who trusted this defendant with this child" and that there was no evidence pointing to Kinzie having anything to do with the baby's death.
Due to the guilty murder charge, Judge Murray said another felony count of voluntary manslaughter became moot and was dismissed.
Smith will be back in the courtroom on Friday, June 14 where the jury will decide whether or not he will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.