Sunday, January 11, 2009

Andre Jenkins, 2008-2008 (plus 1st vs 2nd degree murder)

There are certain stories that will strike parents to the core. Then again, there are certain stories that will strike ANYONE to the core.

Steven Hodson, writing for the Inquisitr, just shared this story about the death of Andre Jenkins in Harvey, Louisiana. He linked to this Daily Mail story. Excerpts:

A babysitter has been charged with murder after putting a baby in a tumble drier so she could watch television undisturbed.

Arielle Smith, 19, has been told she faces a second degree murder charge after the horrific incident in Harvey near New Orleans, Louisiana.

Prosecutors say Smith put five-month-old Andre Jenkins in the tumble drier because he would not stop crying.

Smith, who was babysitting two other children including her one-year-old son and Andre's 18 month old brother, switched on the machine and watched as the baby span round.

Jenkins died from a skull fracture and horrific burns caused by the 175C temperature inside the drier.

More here.

Hodson's question:

I wonder if Louisiana has the death penalty?

And he wasn't the only one who thought this way. AJ Kohn, on FriendFeed:

I'm a liberal and I have no qualms with removing this woman from the gene pool.

I thought I'd check the (Louisiana) local papers, and I discovered that the incident itself happened several months ago, according to this Times-Picayune article from last Friday:

Arielle Smith, 19, is accused of killing Andre Jenkins, 5 months old, on Sept. 11. Smith was watching the infant, his 18-month-old brother, and her 1-year-old son in her home....She was caring for the two brothers for her friend, who was at work, authorities said.

"She was trying to watch something on television," Assistant District Attorney Amanda Calogero said. "She put the two older kids in a room, and she put the baby in the dryer" and turned it on.

The Daily Mail didn't document all of the stories that Smith told after the baby stopped breathing:

Smith initially told detectives that a pot of boiling water fell on the infant, Calogero said. She changed her story to say she hid Andre in the dryer as they played a game of hide-and-seek and that her son must have turned the dryer on.

Pressed further by detectives, Smith admitted that the children "were rambunctious and interfering with her television show," according to a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office probable-cause affidavit.

Smith told detectives she removed clothing from the dryer, put the child in it and started the machine. Smith later removed the unresponsive baby, put the clothing back in the dryer and called her boyfriend and the baby's mother before calling authorities....

Incidentally, Smith is not eligible for the death penalty:

Detectives booked Smith with first-degree murder Sept. 11, a charge that allows the death penalty, but a magistrate judge last year found evidence sufficient to hold her on the lesser charge, records show. If convicted of second-degree murder, Smith would face a mandatory life sentence in prison.

She is held in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in lieu of a $500,000 bond set Thursday by Judge Glenn Ansardi of the 24th Judicial District Court.

The Times-Picayune's September archives are not available for free, but there are certainly free stories about Smith from that period. Hodson and I might have missed the story the first time around, but People You'll See in Hell posted an entry on September 12, 2008.

Ariel Smith...made a little extra money doing some babysitting work for neighbors and friends. One of those friends was Brandy Dozier....

Brandy Dozier had a job, and like millions of other mothers throughout the United States, she couldn’t take her children to her workplace.

On the 11th of September, 2008, Brandy Dozier went to Ariel Smith’s residence and dropped off her 5-month-old son, Andre Jenkins, and his 18-month-old brother before heading on over to work.

A short time later, at about 11 in the morning, Ariel Smith called Brandy to let her know that Andre Jenkins wasn’t breathing anymore....

Brandy Dozier told Ariel Smith to call 911 and that she would be right over. Ariel called 911, but by the time emergency services arrived on the scene, Andre Jenkins was sprawled out on the floor and obviously dead.

Medical personnel were curious as to how the 5-month-old had come to receive some nasty burns all over his body, however. Police were also curious, and homicide detective Keith Locascio decided to ask Ariel Smith if she knew anything about it. She insisted that those burns had developed after Andre’s 18-month-old brother knocked a pot of boiling water from the hot stove onto Andre.

Detective Locascio, not being born yesterday, didn’t fall for that explanation and pressed Ariel Smith a bit more. During the interrogation, Ariel Smith finally admitted that Andre and his brother had gotten on her nerves to the point where she decided to put the baby into her clothes dryer, turn it on and leave the room for a while....

Ariel Smith was arrested and charged with one count of first-degree murder. If convicted, Ariel could possibly receive the death penalty.

But, as I previously noted, at some point this charge was reduced from first-degree to second-degree murder. It appears that this reduction happened very quickly - in fact, it was being written about on September 12 by The Dreamin' Demon:

[Smith] was initially arrested and charged with one count of first-degree murder. This charge carried a death penalty, but a magistrate judge found evidence sufficient to hold her on the lesser charge of second-degree murder which could mean she would spend the rest of her life in prison. Arielle now sits in the Parish Correctional Center in lieu of a $500,000 bond.

So what's the difference? I caution you that the quote below was taken from Yahoo Answers, but it at least sounds legit. From the_doc_man:

In Louisiana, 1st degree murder is premeditated with malice aforethought, but has some extensions. For instance, if there is a robbery and a shooting occurs such that someone dies (even an accomplice of the robber), it is possible to charge the robber with 1st degree murder.

In LA, 2nd degree murder is usually not premeditated, but rather is the spur-of-the-moment thing.

I'm not going to guarantee that LA even HAS 3rd degree murder because we have a full list of homicides as well, including negligent homicide. Which is what I think some other states would call 3rd degree murder.

If the_doc_man is right, then, from a legal viewpoint, the reduction from first to second degree murder makes sense, provided no other evidence emerges. Presumably Arielle Smith didn't wake up on the morning of September 11 and decide, "I'm going to kill Andre today." From what has been presented, this sounds very much like a "spur-of-the-moment thing." And if Smith were taken to trial on first degree murder, there's always the danger that a jury would find her innocent and she would go free.

P.S. Under the circumstances, I really shouldn't add this quote to THIS post, and I won't, but in that same Yahoo Answer, the_doc_man also defines "negligee homicide."

[10:40 PM FOLLOWUP.]

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