The jury trial began Tuesday in Howard Circuit Court for a Kokomo man accused of murdering an 8-week-old infant in November 2017.
Jaquail Smith, 23, is facing felony charges of murder, aggravated battery and voluntary manslaughter after police say the infant who was left in his care ended up with several injuries, including marks on his face, legs and torso, as well as a fractured skull and a large hematoma on the back of his head.
He later died from those injuries at Riley Hospital for Children, with the main cause being blunt force trauma to the head.
Court records showed Smith was in a relationship with the child’s mother at the time of the incident, though Smith is not the child's biological father. The mother told police she left with a friend to run errands that day, leaving her son, August, with Smith in their apartment in the 1300 block of East Alto Road. According to initial police reports, the child had been given a bottle and was sleeping when the mother left. When she returned, Smith told her the infant was not breathing properly, and she also noticed swelling in the head area.
During Tuesday’s opening statements, Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann told the jury the case was very difficult, saying August had a “short period of time on this earth” and that each of the 12 jurors and two alternates have a very serious responsibility to listen to the evidence and “use common sense.”
The state also called several witnesses to the stand Tuesday, including Kokomo Police Department Patrolman David Bell, who took the initial police report at Community Howard Regional Health on the evening of Nov. 8, 2017.
The prosecution also showed a lengthy segment of Bell’s body camera from that night, in which jurors were able to see inside the hospital room where August was being treated by hospital staff.
August's mother was also recorded in that video segment, saying she asked Smith when she got home what had happened with her son while she was gone, and he said the infant was “right where he left him.”
According to a drug screen test on Smith the day August was transported to the hospital, he was allegedly under the influence of THC, amphetamine and methamphetamine at the time, but those findings were not brought up during Tuesday’s arguments.
The prosecution ended day one with the testimony of Mya Bryant, a friend of the mother’s, who confirmed Smith was the only one watching August the day of the incident. Bryant also said she didn’t observe Smith around the baby very often to know if there had ever been any signs of previous abusive behavior, but everything appeared normal.
The state will continue presenting evidence throughout the day today, eventually calling upon the infant’s mother to testify as well.
In a press release sent out by the Howard County Prosecutor’s office two weeks after August’s death, McCann wrote that if Smith is convicted of murder, he should spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.