By Liz Shepherd
COLUMBIA CITY — Courtney Kincaid, the 30-year-old Columbia City woman who battered an 11-month-old child she had been babysitting – resulting in the infant’s death – is appealing her prison sentence with the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Cara Schaefer Wieneke, with Wieneke Law Office in Brooklyn, Ind., is the attorney representing Kincaid in her appeal. In her appeal, Kincaid requests that the court reverse convictions and have a new jury trial; alternatively, Kincaid requests her sentence be reduced to either 20 years in prison or changed to allow for a substantial portion of time to be served on home detention.
On April 12, 2018, Kincaid was babysitting Emma Grace Leeman when Emma sustained severe injuries to her skull. Emma later died as a result of her injuries on April 13, 2018. Emma Grace’s parents are Nick and Sherry Leeman, Pierceton.
A board-certified forensic pathologist conducted an autopsy on Emma and reported the cause of death as “blunt force traumatic injuries to the head,” ruling the death a homicide. A neurosurgeon who performed a craniectomy on Emma said her injuries were consistent with ones seen in motor vehicle crashes.
Prior to her arrest, Kincaid gave officers several different stories on what happened to Emma. A polygraph examination in August 2018 showed “deception indicated” when Kincaid was asked if she injured Emma and if she knew how she was hurt.
During a five-day jury trial in July 2020, Kincaid was found guilty of aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent resulting in death, both level 1 felonies.
In August 2020, Whitley County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Rentschler sentenced Kincaid to 30 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections for each charge. Both counts are being served concurrently.
Kincaid is currently serving her prison sentence at Rockville Correctional Facility, with an estimated release date of Jan. 28, 2043.
The 42-page appeal, filed on Jan. 22, lists two main arguments as to why the state of Indiana’s judgment should not have been entered.
- The trial court committed fundamental error by denying Kincaid her state and federal constitutional right to present a defense when it severely curtailed her expert’s testimony regarding the interrogation method by police.
Wieneke argues that the court is in error for not allowing Kincaid the opportunity to present further testimony from Professor Alan Hirsch, an expert in interrogations and false confessions. She argues that the error was appalling since the state was allowed to present testimony that interrogation techniques used by detectives in this case were not aggressive or relentless.
During the jury trial, Hirsch was asked about the Reid Technique, a process where investigators tell alleged suspects that the results of the investigation clearly indicate they did commit the crime in question. Hirsch said the technique works on guilty people but can also break down innocent people.
The appeal states the trial court improperly limited Hirsch’s testimony, which prevented Kincaid from presenting a full defense.
“The weight to be given to Kincaid’s confession was really the only issue to be decided by the jury; the elements of the offenses otherwise were not in dispute,” read the appeal. “As Kincaid testified, ‘I had to admit that I did lie during the investigation and I do have to own up to those stories. But I believe that it’s my words that have led me here today. I’m not here for my actions. I’m here because of my words.'”
- Kincaid’s 30-year sentence was inappropriate in light of the nature of the offenses and her character.
Wieneke also argues that the sentence Kincaid received is inappropriate due to no prior criminal history and the outpouring of support she received during the proceedings.
“Regarding the nature of the offenses, Kincaid does not dispute that the nature of her offenses, when the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdicts, was disturbing,” read the appeal. “There was no evidence to suggest that Kincaid intended to kill (Emma).”
The appeal states Kincaid had nearly 50 people write to the court or testify on her behalf at sentencing, with many of the witnesses calling Kincaid kind, sweet, loving and nurturing. It also notes Kincaid experienced “survivor’s guilt” as a result of Emma’s death and sought counseling for severe depression.
“It is rare…to encounter a person convicted of such serious offenses who has not had any prior involvement with the criminal justice system,” read the appeal. “It is also rare to encounter a defendant who has such an outpouring of support from family, friends and the community.”
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