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Judgments of Acquittal

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Case:  State of Tennessee v. Shalonda Weems

Facts:  Defendant was found guilty of aggravated child neglect and reckless homicide in connection with the starvation death of her six-month-old daughter. The trial court then entered a Judgment of Acquittal for the aggravated child neglect conviction and set it aside. The State appealed, arguing the trial court improperly substituted its own credibility determinations for those of the jury and failed to consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, in contravention of State v. Stephens, 521 S.W.3d 718, 724 (Tenn. 2017).

Appellate Decision: The intermediate court affirmed, holding that the evidence was insufficient to prove the Defendant knowingly did not feed or neglect the child. This ruling was based on the Defendant’s repeated denials of neglect, medical records showing the child was healthy just weeks before her heath, records showing the Defendant took her to every scheduled doctor’s visit, and testimony that the child looked healthy just days before her heath.

Review Granted:  June 3, 2020.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will agree with the State and reverse, finding under these facts the trial court could have only ordered a new trial under the 13th juror rule, rather than setting aside the verdict.