Appeals court tosses 1 conviction in child abuse case

The Arkansas Court of Appeals has thrown out Jonathan Snow’s conviction for first-degree battery stemming from injuries to his then three-week old son, but let stand his endangering the welfare of a minor conviction.

The court released its ruling Wednesday.

During his trial in October 2017, a Baxter County Circuit Court jury found Snow guilty on the battery and endangering charges and recommended he be given 35 years in prison on the battery charge and six on endangering the welfare of a minor.

The jury recommended the sentences be consecutive, meaning Snow was facing a total of 41 years in prison.

The jury verdict came at the end of an emotional trial during which the victim, Alyas Snow, was brought into the courtroom by his foster mother so jurors could see the results of the injuries the small boy sustained and the handicaps he will have to live with for the remainder of his life.

In his appeal, Snow contended his conviction rested solely on an inadequate amount of circumstantial evidence. His lawyer, Gary Potts, wrote the jury in the case was forced to rely on speculation and conjecture to conclude Snow committed the crimes, and the state failed to exclude the reasonable hypothesis the mother of the child, Alyssia Kirby-Snow, was actually the guilty party.

In early February, a jury found Kirby-Snow not guilty of first-degree battery and guilty of permitting child abuse and endangering the welfare of a minor and sentenced her to 26 years in prison and assessed a fine of $13,000. Kirby-Snow has indicated she intends to appeal her conviction as well.

The charges against the couple resulted from an investigation launched in late February 2016 when the Mountain Home Police Department received a report from Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock that it was believed Alyas Snow had suffered serious abuse.

In the opinion of the medical team which examined the infant there was no scenario in which a single drop or fall would result in Alyas Snow’s widespread injuries. According to investigative reports, the parents provided nothing but guesses as to how the infant sustained the injuries, but the medical team suspected abuse.

Jonathan Snow and Alyssia Kirby-Snow told investigators they were the only ones responsible for the care of the infant. At the time of the infant’s birth, Jonathan Snow and Alyssia Kirby were living together in an apartment complex along State Highway 201 North. They were married in early October 2016. At the time of the marriage, Alyssia Kirby-Snow was 30-years-old and Jonathan Snow was 19-years-old.

The appeals court wrote that merely because Jonathan Snow and Alyssia Kirby-Snow were the only ones to care for their infant “does not indicate the guilt of one parent and not the other, nor does both parent’s denial of any major accidents.”

In the appeals court ruling, it was pointed out the state contended during the trial the evidence presented to the jury showed the baby sustained life-threatening injuries while in the care of Snow and Kirby-Snow and the jury could have reasonably inferred the baby’s father caused the injuries, given the improbable explanation for the bruising and the fact Snow avoided getting medical attention for the baby who was plainly injured and in distress.

During Jonathan Snow’s trial, his attorney, Andrew Bailey, said Alyssia Kirby-Snow was the better candidate for inflicting the baby’s injuries. It was pointed out she has had five children, and one of them has been removed from her care due to a drug problem.

During Jonathan Snow’s trial, videos were introduced which Snow had taken with his phone as he attempted to care for Alyas. The appeals court wrote the video and accompanying commentary were odd, but “we cannot agree they are necessarily proof of guilt. The argument could just as easily be made that the fact he made the videos is proof of his innocence and show the concern and uncertainty of a young father.”

Two of the appeals court judges dissented from the majority opinion.

Jonathan Snow is incarcerated at the Delta Regional Unit of the Department of Correction at Dermott, while Alyssia Kirby-Snow is in the Wrightsville Women’s Facility.

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