Judge Rules Against Infant Murder Trial; Prosecutors Appeal

Janette Mickelboro, 23, was arrested September 15, 2010, for the death of her infant son on August 20.  She has remained jailed on $250,000 bond since her arrest on a first degree murder complaint.  You can read more about murder charges and defense strategies here.

Details of the Murder Charges

However, a Tulsa County judge ruled recently that there was not enough evidence to order a first degree murder trial for the young mother, a decision which prosecutors have appealed.    A hearing in the appeal has been set for January 15, 2011.

The arrest came after Hunter Warner, just shy of four months old, was found dead in a bassinet by his father.  Later, his mother, Janette Mickelboro admitted to authorities that she had tied a receiving blanket around the baby's head in order to hold his pacifier in place before putting him in a bouncy seat and leaving the room. 

She says that when she returned to check on her son "several hours later," she found him "stiff and cold."  Rather than contacting authorities or seeking emergency medical care for her son, she admits, Mickelboro placed her son's body in a bassinet and left for work, leaving the dead infant for her partner, the boy's father, to find. In order for someone to be found guilty of first degree murder, prosecutors must prove that the person killed someone else "with malice aforethought." 

This means that the killing was intentional and premeditated, or that it was committed recklessly with extreme disregard for human life. Tulsa County Special Judge Allen Klein ruled that, in the Mickelboro case, prosecutors presented insufficent evidence for a first degree murder trial. 

The autopsy report in Hunter Warner's death listed the cause of death as unknown, and a report of the findings states that “no specific findings were noted at autopsy that are specific or conclusive for suffocation.”  However, at Mickelboro's preliminary hearing, the medical examiner in the case testified that an airway obstruction causing suffocation was more likely than not the cause of the infant's death.

Furthermore, several witnesses claim that they had seen previously seen Mickelboro wrap a blanket around her baby's head to hold a pacifier in place, and that they had warned her that it was a dangerous practice, cautioning her against further such action. 

Prosecutor's contend that Mickelboro's knowledge of the dangers associated with wrapping an infant's head in a blanket makes her actions negligent, reckless, and abusive to the point of becoming first degree murder. Mickelboro's Oklahoma criminal defense attorney calls the baby's death "an unfortunate and tragic accident," and asserts that his client is not guilty of either first degree murder or domestic abuse. 

Rather, Mickelboro was a young, uninformed mother who did  not understand the consequences her actions could have. If the judge's ruling is upheld at the January appeal hearing, first degree murder charges against Mickelboro will likely be dismissed.

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