Friday, 24 June 2011

SBS: Illinois: Ian Watkins may be released

By ANDY KRAVETZ  Jun 10, 2011

A South Peoria man was convicted Thursday of killing his former girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter but will likely be released from custody soon.
That's because Ian Watkins, 31, has spent more than nine years behind bars for the Dec. 2, 2009, death of Kei-Anna Monroe. His initial 2003 first-degree murder conviction and 47-year prison sentence were later reversed, and a 2006 jury couldn't reach a verdict.
Now, his conviction for involuntary manslaughter appears to carries a maximum of five years in prison, which means Watkins will not likely have to serve any more time in prison.
Peoria County Circuit Judge Steve Kouri set a hearing for Monday, when he will decide if Watkins will be free on bond pending his Aug. 25 sentencing.
The three-day trial was emotional for all sides. At one point during the closing arguments Thursday, Watkins began to sob as his attorney, Kevin Lowe, told jurors about his client's low intelligence and mental health problems. Before that, another man became so emotional as prosecutors listed the girl's numerous injuries, he was told to leave the room.
As the verdict was read, family members of Watkins sat quietly, but like Watkins, they looked relieved. Across the aisle, relatives of Kei-Anna looked stunned. That turned to anger and grief as they left the building. One stood outside the building and cried, "It's not fair. He killed her and he goes free."
Prosecutors Jodi Hoos and Nancy Mermelstein said Watkins was baby-sitting Kei-Anna and her two brothers on Dec. 1, 2009, at his South Peoria apartment. The little girl's grandmother, who had custody of Kei-Anna, came over to pick her up and found her nonresponsive.
She was rushed to the hospital and placed in intensive care, but the damage was too severe, and she was taken off life support the next day.
Hoos pointed to testimony of several doctors who labeled the injuries as shaken baby syndrome and not accidental. She urged jurors to reject the manslaughter charge, saying the notion Watkins was merely reckless was implausible. She also disputed a claim by Watkins that he tried to dislodge a hot dog from the girl's throat.
"How is it that she is choking on a hot dog and her DNA is not found on the hot dog (piece)?" she said. "I submit that is impossible."
But Lowe countered that later tests were inconclusive and couldn't rule out the possibility the little girl's DNA was on the hot dog.
He also said Watkins' accounts of what happened changed not because he was guilty of murder, as prosecutors said, but because his client couldn't properly explain himself to detectives.
Lowe stressed that his client's low intelligence and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder played a role. He ended his closing argument with a statement Watkins made to police.
"I panicked; I didn't know what to do. I was doing the best that I could."

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