New trial sought for Yukon man found guilty in baby murder

Jennings’ sentencing hearing delayed in Canadian County District Court

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Joshua Paul Jennings

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

A Yukon man found guilty of killing a baby is seeking a new trial.

An attorney for Joshua Paul Jennings, 35, has filed a motion for new trial and brief in support in Canadian County District Court.

“The culmination and accumulation of errors in this case warrant a new trial,” according to the 30-page motion filed Nov. 4.

“Defendant prays that this Court grant him a new trial, together with any other relief deemed just and equitable.”

Paisley Cearley

A Canadian County jury on Sept. 15 found Jennings guilty of first-degree murder and recommended he spend life in prison without parole for causing the September 2020 death of Paisley Cearley.

The 10-month-old girl died from injuries she sustained while in Jennings’ care at an apartment south of Interstate 40 near Mustang Road, according to court documents.

Jury members deliberated for an hour before returning their guilty verdict to end a three-day trial in September.

“Unfortunately, the trial court relied on misinterpretations of the law as advocated by the State – both at a pre-trial motion hearing and during the jury trial itself,” according to the motion signed by defense attorney Michael J. Amend of Norman.

These “errors of law” undermined the “fundamental fairness and reliability” of the jury verdict, Amend wrote.

“(I)t is the interest of justice that the verdict be vacated” and a new trial be granted.

In the brief supporting the motion, Jennings’ attorney argues:

  • The state violated the defendant’s Miranda rights.
  • The trial court erred in not allowing defendant to put on a third-party perpetrator defense.
  • The trial court erred in not admonishing the jury to not discuss the case prior to deliberations.
  • The trial court erred in not admonishing the jury to disregard the admission of child hearsay and further by denying defendant’s motion for mistrial.
  • The trial court erred in overruling the defendant’s objection to the state’s burden shifting during its first closing argument.
  • The trial court erred in not allowing defendant’s counsel to comment on the state’s failure to introduce the medical examiner’s report during closing argument.
  • The trial court erred in not instructing the jury on the lesser included offense of second-degree manslaughter.
  • The trial court erred in not instructing the jury that defendant’s confession must be corroborated.
  • The jury’s verdict was not supported by the evidence presented in this case.
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NOV. 28TH HEARING

Canadian County District Judge Jack D. McCurdy II will consider the defendant’s motion for a new trial on Nov. 28.

A sentencing hearing originally set Nov. 9 was continued to that date.

The jury recommended Jennings be sentenced to serve life without the possibility of parole in state Department of Corrections’ custody.

A first-degree murder conviction also carries possible penalties of death or life in prison with parole.

Judge McCurdy will determine Jennings’ punishment after reviewing a pre-sentence investigation report conducted by the state Department of Corrections and hearing witness testimony at the sentencing hearing.

Jennings was found guilty on the felony murder charge for causing the infant’s death “by willfully and/or maliciously injuring or using unreasonable force” and “thereby inflicting certain mortal wounds,” court records show.

The injuries to Paisley occurred at her home in the 11300 block of S.W. 5th. The home has a Yukon address but is in Oklahoma City limits.

Oklahoma City Police officers responded Sept. 25, 2020, to a minor emergency clinic at 520 S Mustang Road after learning the baby was brought in with critical injuries allegedly caused by abuse.

The infant was later taken to an area hospital where she died the next morning. Jennings was the boyfriend of the baby’s mother.

Canadian County Special Judge Charles Gass, at a November 2021 preliminary hearing, found probable cause that Jennings committed the murder and bound the defendant over for trial.

Judge McCurdy confirmed that ruling at a July 21st hearing.

Jennings remains held without bond at the Canadian County Jail in El Reno. He was booked Sept. 26, 2020.

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