Yukon baby killer gets life without parole

Judge follows jury’s sentencing recommendation; defendant appeals

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Joshua Paul Jennings

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

EL RENO – A Yukon baby killer has been ordered to spend the rest of his life in state prison.

Paisley Cearley

Joshua Paul Jennings, 35, was sentenced Jan. 17 in Canadian County District Court to serve life without the possibility of parole for causing the September 2020 death of 10-month-old Paisley Cearley.

District Judge (ret.) Jack D. McCurdy II followed the recommendation of the jury, which found Jennings guilty of first-degree murder at the end of a three-day trial in September 2022.

The jury had deliberated about an hour before returning its verdict.

Jennings has been convicted of killing the baby girl, who sustained injuries while in his care at an apartment south of Interstate 40 near Mustang Road.

Judge McCurdy announced the life-without-parole sentence after listening to victim impact statements read by Assistant District Attorney Austin T. Murrey and Jennings’ stepfather and arguments of Murrey and defense attorney Michael J. Amend.

The defendant then presented a notice of intent to appeal and request for indigency. The judge found Jennings is indigent and entitled to a public defender for the appeal.

Judge Jack D. McCurdy

Although Judge McCurdy stepped down from the Canadian County bench Nov. 30, he presided at Jennings’ sentencing hearing on “active retired” status.

A motion for a new trial, filed by Jennings’ attorney Nov. 4, was previously denied by McCurdy.

The state Department of Corrections conducted a pre-sentence investigation on Jennings. The report was filed Jan. 12 before formal sentencing.

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.

Jennings caused the infant’s death “by willfully and/or maliciously injuring or using unreasonable force” and “thereby inflicting certain mortal wounds,” court documents show.

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APPEAL MOTION

The defendant’s motion to appeal, filed by attorney Amend, lists 12 “proposed issues and errors”:

  • The sentence imposed by the jury and trial court was excessive in light of the evidence at trial and at sentencing.
  • The trial court erred in denying defendant’s motion pursuant to Jackson v. Denno.
  • 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 oral motion for mistrial.
  • The trial court erred in overruling 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 defendant’s closing argument.
  • The trial court erred in not instructing the jury on the lesser included charge of second-degree manslaughter.
  • The trial court erred in not instructing the jury that defendant’s confession must be corroborated.
  • The state failed to prove sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable double of the crime of first-degree murder.
  • The culmination of errors in this case warrant a new trial.
  • Any and all errors that will only become apparent through careful review of the record in this case.
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