Baby killer fights conviction at state appeals court

Yukon man was sentenced in January to life without parole

Joshua Paul Jennings

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY – A Yukon baby killer sentenced in January to life in prison without parole has formally appealed his conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Appellant Joshua Paul Jennings, through his newly appointed attorney Scott W. Braden, filed a petition in error March 1 with Court of Criminal Appeals Clerk John D. Hadden.

“For the reasons that shall be advanced in the course of this appeal, appellant respectfully requests the Court to reverse the judgment of the District Court, or, in the alternative, to modify the sentence of the District Court, and to grant him any further relief as this Court may see just and reasonable or as may be requested in the course of this appeal,” the petition reads.

A notice of intent to appeal was filed Jan. 23 in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals by Jennings’ trial attorney Michael J. Amend.

Paisley Cearley

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

Jennings was convicted of killing the baby girl, who sustained injuries while in his care at an apartment in the 11300 block of S.W. 5th near Interstate 40 and Mustang Road.

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 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.

District Judge Jack D. McCurdy II followed a Canadian County jury’s recommendation in announcing the life-without-parole sentence.

The jury had found Jennings guilty of first-degree murder on Sept. 14, 2022, at the end of a three-day trial.

Jury members had deliberated about an hour before returning the verdict.

A motion for a new trial, filed Nov. 4 by defense attorney Amend, was denied Nov. 28 by McCurdy.

After Judge McCurdy pronounced sentence Jan. 17, the defendant presented the notice of intent to appeal and request for indigency.

McCurdy had retired Nov. 30 but presided at the sentencing hearing on “active retired” status.

The judge found Jennings was indigent and entitled to a public defender for the appeal.

Jennings’ case was assigned to attorney Braden of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System’s Homicide Direct Appeals Division, according to a notice filed March 1 in the Oklahoma Court Criminal Appeals.



The notice of intent to appeal, filed by Jennings’ trial 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.