The Mississippi Supreme court has agreed to review the case of a man whose murder conviction was overturned last year. The court will decide whether to reinstate the conviction, order a new trial, or drop the charges entirely.
In January 2008, Joshua Clark was left in charge of his infant daughter Kylie and three other children. When Kylie’s mother returned home, she found Kylie limp in the recliner and Clark playing video games.
Kylie was taken to the hospital, where doctors found numerous injuries to her brain. Clark was charged with capital murder in connection with the death of his daughter.
Circuit Court Trial
At trial, the state argued that Clark had gotten angry with his daughter and violently shook her. Clark’s defense argued that he was not known to be violent and that Kylie’s injuries were more consistent with a short fall to the ground from the couch or chair.
The state retained Dr. Karen Lakin to testify as an expert witness. Dr. Lakin testified that “in her opinion, the child had been violently shaken, causing a fatal brain injury.”
Clark was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Court of Appeals
Clark appealed his conviction. One of his defense team’s arguments was that the circuit court erred by admitting Dr. Lakin’s testimony.
In October 2019, the Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed Clark’s conviction. In a split decision, the appellate court ruled that Dr. Lakin had not provided supporting materials for her findings. The court remanded Clark’s case back to the circuit court for a new trial.
Mississippi Supreme Court
Clark appealed his case to the Mississippi Supreme court. Clark’s attorney, Jim Waide, argues that Shaken Baby Syndrome has been disproven by new medical science. Without the shaken baby syndrome argument, Waide claims, the state has no case. Waide argues that Clark should be released from prison to await a new trial or that all charges against him should be dropped.
In his petition, Waide wrote, “The only issue worthy of review by (the supreme court) is whether the state should be allowed to have a second trial to produce scientific evidence which it failed to produce at the first trial.”
The state also appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision. The state has argued that the Court of Appeals was wrong to throw out the expert witness testimony about Shaken Baby Syndrome. It has asked the Supreme Court to reinstate Clark’s conviction.
Arguing for the state, Mississippi Special Assistant Attorney General Scott Stuart claims that if the Court of Appeals’ ruling is allowed to stand, it will cause new problems and “set new higher standards for expert testimony.” One might hope that high standards would be demanded for opinions that are based on the discredited notion of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
The Mississippi Supreme Court has not yet announced the time frame for its review.
Clark is likely to remain in state prison until the Mississippi Supreme Court makes its final ruling. Waide had argued that Clark should be released pending the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision. Circuit Court Judge Kelly Mims disagreed with Waide. Judge Mims stated that since the case is still being appealed, Clark is still technically a convicted murderer and should remain in prison.
Clark has been in jail or prison for 12 years at this point.