Appellate court upholds 30-year sentence for babysitter in infant’s death

A decades-long sentence will stand for a northeastern Indiana babysitter who lied to police about knowing what caused the fatal injuries to a baby in her care who later died following a brain bleed.

Courtney Kincaid, who ran an in-home day care, was in the care of 11-month-old Emma Grace Leeman on the day the infant died by a brain injury. Kincaid later appeared in a Whitley County court in 2019 after being jailed on charges including aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent causing death. She pleaded not guilty to those charges. 

On the day of the incident, Kincaid called 911, reporting that Emma had been moaning and grunting while napping and was foaming at the mouth when Kincaid tried to wake her and began CPR. Paramedics transported the baby to the hospital, where tests showed she had a large skull fracture and intracranial brain bleed caused by the child’s head hitting a broad flat surface with great force.

Kincaid initially told police that she did not know the source of Emma’s injuries but that she shook the child while trying to revive her. Four months later, Kincaid underwent a polygraph examination that revealed she was lying about not knowing what happened to Emma and eventually changed her story.

In one conflicting account as to how Emma was injured, the babysitter said she had accidentally dropped the baby on the concrete patio. In another account, Kincaid said she threw the baby forward forcefully when she wouldn’t stop crying and the baby’s head hit the floor.

Kincaid was charged and convicted of aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent, both Level 1 felonies, and the Whitley Circuit Court sentenced her to concurrent terms of 30 years for each conviction.

In affirming her sentence, the Indiana Court of Appeals on Thursday found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in limiting an expert’s testimony and that Kincaid’s advisory-level sentence was appropriate.

The appellate court first found that limitations on the expert witness’s testimony did not deprive Kincaid of a fair trial. Specifically, it rejected Kincaid’s assertion that professor Alan Hirsch, an expert in interrogations and false confessions, should have been allowed to offer an opinion as to whether the officers who questioned her used the Reid Technique and whether this technique could have contributed to her false confession.

The appellate court also rejected Kincaid’s claim that Jimerson v. State, 56 N.E.3d 117, 121 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), trans. denied, was wrongly decided. It further concluded that the officers’ testimony that they did not use the technique communicated nothing about the veracity of Kincaid’s statement and, therefore, was not prohibited by Evidence Rule 704(b).

“We fail to see how the State, by offering such admissible testimony, opened the door to Professor Hirsch’s inadmissible testimony. As we find no error in the trial court’s limitations on Professor Hirsch’s testimony, much less fundamental error, we conclude Kincaid was not deprived of her constitutional right to present a defense,” Judge Leanna K. Weissmann wrote for the appellate court.

Finally, the court concluded Kincaid’s sentence was not inappropriate in the case of Courtney L. Kincaid v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-1779.

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