Yukon baby killer seeks to overturn conviction

Attorney files appeal brief July 26 in state court; seeks new trial

Joshua Paul Jennings

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY – A Yukon man found guilty of murdering a baby girl almost three years ago is appealing his conviction to the state’s highest criminal court.

A 42-page brief was filed July 26 at the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on behalf of appellant Joshua Paul Jennings, 35.

Appellate defense counsel Scott W. Braden represents Jennings, who was convicted of first-degree murder Jan. 13 after a sentencing hearing in Canadian County District Court.

Jennings’ conviction “violates the United States Constitution as well as the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma,” according to the appeal brief signed by attorney Braden.

“This Court must reverse and remand his conviction to the trial court for a new trial.”

Now-retired District Judge Jack D. McCurdy II presided at a three-day trial in September 2022.

A Canadian County jury found Jennings guilty and recommended that he serve the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury deliberated for about an hour before returning its verdict.

Defense attorney Michael Amend on Nov. 4, 2022, filed a motion for a new trial – which Judge McCurdy denied Nov. 28.

In January, McCurdy followed the jury’s recommendation by sentencing the convicted baby killer to life in prison without parole.

Since March, Jennings has been housed at the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville.

Appellate attorney Braden, a member of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, presented nine propositions that are detailed in the appeal brief:

  • The trial court erroneously allowed the state to show footage of two custodial interrogations at trial, one prior to Mr. Jennings being mirandized and one after an invalid Miranda waiver.
  • The trial court abused its discretion by not permitting Mr. Jennings to present a third-party perpetrator defense at trial, violating Mr. Jennings’ 6th and 14th Amendment rights.
  • The trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of manslaughter in the second degree.
  • The trial court erroneously ruled that Medical Examiners’ reports are inadmissible under Oklahoma law.
  • Mr. Jennings was denied his 6th Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel due to counsel’s repeated failures throughout trial.
  • The cumulative effect of prosecutorial misconduct infected Mr. Jennings’ trial and denied him his right to a fundamentally fair trial.
  • The trial court’s failure to admonish the jury at every recess denied Mr. Jennings a fair trial.
  • The trial court abused its discretion in refusing Mr. Jennings’ motion for a mistrial and request for admonition after the prosecution referenced an impermissible child hearsay statement.
  • The culmination of the errors as set out above require the reversal of Mr. Jennings’ conviction.


Paisley Cearley

Jennings was convicted of killing 10-month-old Paisley Cearley, who sustained severe injuries in fall 2020 while in his care at an apartment in the 11300 block of S.W. 5th.

The home, south of Interstate 40 near Mustang Road, has a Yukon address but is in Oklahoma City limits.

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

The infant was later transferred to OU Children’s Hospital where she died the next morning.

Jennings was the boyfriend of the baby’s mother, who worked during the day while he took care of her two children at their home.

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

The victim had a skull fracture, multiple hematomas on her brain and bruising to her thigh, head and neck.

Medical examiner Dr. Asma Sharif testified that the cause of death was blunt force head trauma.

During a 6-1/2-hour interrogation, Jennings told Oklahoma City police investigators that he accidentally dropped the baby on the floor after picking her up with a blanket.