An Indiana court has denied the appeal of a Kokomo man convicted of murder after a jury determined he killed an infant by bludgeoning the child with a mason jar when the baby was crying.
Jaquail Smith, 23, was sentenced in July to 65 years in prison on a murder conviction after he killed an 8-week-old baby who was in his care.
The mother of the child left the baby with Smith in June 2017 to run errands. When she returned home, she saw Smith sitting on the bed and immediately noticed her child’s head was swollen on the side.
The baby later died at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. An autopsy revealed the cause of death was blunt force injury to the head.
Smith repeatedly denied knowing what had happened to the baby, but admitted he was home alone with the child at the time of the injury.
Smith was arrested in November 2017 on a charge of murder. According to court documents, Smith later told his cellmate that he killed the baby, who had been napping but had rolled off the bed, hit his head on the nightstand and started to cry.
Smith stated that he then “bludgeoned the infant” in the head with a glass mason jar, according to court documents.
Smith appealed his conviction, arguing the evidence against him was “conflicting” and that the jury was presented with “equally plausible” versions of events and chose the State’s version rather than his.
The Indiana Court of Appeals said Friday in a written brief that “This is precisely the jury’s prerogative.”
“It is exclusive province of jury to weigh conflicting evidence,” the court said. “The State presented substantial evidence of probative value to support the jury’s verdict.”
The court also pointed to the fact that police found several mason jars in the apartment, and Smith’s own testimony confirmed that he went to the apartment while the baby was in the hospital and hid a glass mason jar in the bushes, according to court documents.
At his sentencing hearing, Smith called the baby’s death a tragedy, but maintained his innocence, saying he loved the child and had nothing to do with his death.