TOPEKA — The Kansas Supreme Court Friday ordered a new trial for a day care operator who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 13-month-old girl in Sedgwick County in 2008.
Jessica D. Cummings was sentenced to 32 months after authorities said she put 13-month-old Kailee Hundley in a car seat, left her in a laundry room alone for two hours and returned to find the child had slid down in the seat and strangled on a strap.
The court says the Sedgwick County Jury didn’t get a proper explanation of the definition of endangering a child and that Cummings should get a new trial.
Cummings was in her home caring for the girl along with her daughter and two other children. The court ruling says Cummings put Hundley in the laundry room because the child was being too noisy and the girl may have disturbed another sleeping child. Cummings gave Hundley a pacifier and fastened the car seat’s top strap, but not the bottom, court records show.
A forensic pathologist testified that the girl was too big for the car seat and that the girl’s weight cause the car seat to tip forward, putting more weight on her neck. She said regardless of the seat’s size, a child should never be left unattended in a car seat, which is noted on the seat’s warning label.
Cumnmings told the jury that she thought the seat was a safe place for the girl to sleep, and she said she had put children, including her own, in the seat before.
The jury convicted Cummings of involuntary manslaughter while endangering a child.
Cummings appealed it, arguing that the state had to prove she knew that putting the girl in a car seat caused a reasonable probability that the child would be endangered. Cummings said it was wrong to not explain to the jury that it couldn’t convict her of involuntary manslaughter if it believed the death was caused by a freak accident.
She was released from custody and given parole on April 5, 2013.
The court opinion says the judges agree that if the jury had been properly instructed, it may have reached a different result.