By Liz Shepherd
COLUMBIA CITY — Courtney Kincaid, the woman appealing a 30-year prison sentence for battering an infant, resulting in the child’s death, has filed a response to the state of Indiana’s brief in an appeal regarding her sentence.
On April 12, 2018, Kincaid, 30, 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.
Cara Schaefer Wieneke, with Wieneke Law Office in Brooklyn, Ind., is the attorney representing Kincaid in her appeal.
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 10-page brief, filed on April 8, argues there was no dispute Indiana law permitted testimony from Professor Alan Hirsch, an expert in interrogations.
In her appeal, Kincaid’s counsel argued the court was in error for not allowing Kincaid the opportunity to present additional testimony from Hirsch.
During the jury trial, Hirsch was asked about the Reid Technique, a process where investigators tell alleged suspects 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 brief argues the State said allowing Hirsch to testify on techniques used in Kincaid’s confession would have led the jury to believe Kincaid falsely confessed. Wieneke also argues in her brief that after Hirsch testified on the existence of false confessions, the State was allowed to show the Reid Technique was not used in Kincaid’s interrogations.
“Yet Courtney was not allowed to rebut that assertion by the State, leaving the jury to believe that Professor Hirsch’s expert testimony had no applicability to Courtney’s case,” read the brief. “This constituted fundamental error because it was a substantial and blatant violation of Courtney’s right to due process.”
Wieneke further states in the brief that expert testimony that may have a persuasive effect on a jury is admitted all the time in the state. She compared Kincaid’s confession to fingerprints on a weapon used in a murder.
“She (Kincaid) was entitled to an opportunity to challenge the reliability of the confession,” read the brief. “Just as a defendant could present evidence to show the fingerprint found on the murder weapon was improperly collected, Courtney had the right to show the tactics used to obtain her confession were improper.”
The brief argues Kincaid was not allowed to present evidence showing that she was subjected to an interrogation involving tactics commonly associated with the Reid Technique and that there were several examples of detectives using the tactics while interrogating Kincaid. Meanwhile, Wieneke says the state was allowed to present evidence showing the detectives did not use the Reid Technique and that they displayed a calm demeanor and made no threats to Kincaid during her interview.
Wieneke says the purpose of Hirsch’s testimony was to educate the jury on false confessions and how interrogation tactics taught as part of the Reid Technique were used on Kincaid.
“The jury was not permitted to hear whether Professor Hirsch believed the Reid Technique was used in this case and why he believed so,” read the brief. “Yet the jury was allowed to hear the detectives testify that they did not use the Reid Technique when interrogating Courtney.”
In conclusion, the brief requests the Court of Appeals reverse Kincaid’s convictions and remand her case for a new trial or alternatively revise her sentence.