Friday, 6 May 2011

SBS: Missouri: Baby sitter Amy Johnson sentenced second time raises legal questions


Amy Johnson
handout Baby sitter Amy Johnson.
  • Amy Johnson
  • Kelsey McGinnis
A woman who shook a baby girl in her care so severely that the girl died of her injuries in 2007 at age 13 was sentenced this morning to fourteen years in prison.
Amy Johnson shook 2-month-old Kelsey McGinnis as she cared for her at her home in Ellisville in July 14, 1994. Kelsey suffered severe brain damage, was blind, and could not walk, talk, or feed herself. Johnson served one year in jail for assaulting the child, but in March she pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after being charged with second-degree murder in October 2008.
The case may have broken legal ground in Missouri because she had already been charged with a crime in the case. But prosecutors determined the charge did not violate Johnson's constitutional right against being tried twice for the same crime.
This morning in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Kelsey's father, Michael McGinnis, told Circuit Court Judge Richard Bresnahan how Johnson's decision to shake Kelsey changed their lives forever. In halting, tearful speech, McGinnis related how he, his wife Karen, and their three other children suffered financially and emotionally caring for Kelsey around the clock. "Our life was destroyed that day, not just our daughter, but our whole entire family," he said.
He said that he did not hate Johnson, but noted that she had never apologized for what had happened. "That would have made a big difference," he said.
Johnson, when given a chance to speak before the judge, said she was told not to contact the McGinnis family. "I did not intentionally hurt her," she said, noting that she had no idea at the time what Shaken Baby Syndrome was. "I'm truly sorry for all the family has gone through. And my family is suffering, too."
Johnson, who lives with her husband and children in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Her lawyer noted that one of her daughters is disabled and faces surgery, and requested that she be able to serve her sentence in a prison in South Dakota.
Johnson will likely serve about five years in prison before she is eligible for parole.
Bresnahan told Johnson that this was one of the most difficult cases he's seen in his law career. "You've sentenced them to a prison of pain," he told Johnson. "It's a different prison than the one you're going to go into, but a prison all the same.
But the difference was, he said, was that Johnson would get out one day.

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