By Conrad Dudderar
A motion seeking a new trial for a Yukon man found guilty of killing a baby has been denied.
Joshua Paul Jennings, 35, is now due to be sentenced Jan. 17, 2023, in Canadian County District Court.
A Canadian County jury on Sept. 15 found Jennings guilty of first-degree murder and recommended he spend life in state 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.
Jennings’ attorney Michael J. Amend on Nov. 4 filed a motion for a new trial before the defendant was due to be sentenced by District Judge Jack D. McCurdy II.
On Nov. 28, Judge McCurdy signed an order continuing the case until 11 a.m. Jan. 17 since a pre-sentence investigation report had not been completed.
The continuance was granted at the defendant’s request over the objection of Assistant District Attorney Austin T. Murrey.
The prosecutor told Judge McCurdy the pre-sentence report was discretionary – not mandatory, according to the court minute.
After hearing arguments of counsel, McCurdy overruled the defendant’s motion for a new trial.
Attorney Amend had argued 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.”
These “errors of law” undetermined the “fundamental fairness and reliability” of the jury verdict, according to the motion.
“(I)t is the interest of justice that the verdict be vacated and a new trial be granted.”
After denying the motion, Judge McCurdy on Nov. 28 signed an order directing the state Department of Corrections’ Division of Probation and Parole to conduct the pre-sentence investigation on Jennings.
A report is due to be completed by Jan. 10, the court order indicates.
LIFE SENTENCE RECOMMENDED
At the end of the three-day trial in September, jury members recommended Jennings be sentenced to serve life without the possibility of parole in state prison.
The jury deliberated about an hour before returning its verdict.
A first-degree murder conviction also carries possible penalties of death or life in prison with parole.
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.