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Psychiatric assessment ordered for SA mother who fatally shook baby

Dec 07, 2017
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Posted December 07, 2017 13:59:28

A mother who shook her premature baby and caused injuries that eventually killed him had a “momentary lapse” of judgement and was otherwise “trying” to be a good parent, the Supreme Court of South Australia has heard.

Former childcare worker Jennifer Nicole Kennison, 31, has pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter over the death of her baby son in early 2016.

The baby was 14 weeks old when he died.

The court previously heard Kennison told investigators that “as she was getting out of bed she dropped the deceased onto a carpeted floor”.

“He then cried for a period of two to three minutes … commenced turning blue and appeared to lose consciousness,” prosecutor Emma Wildman said.

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Ms Wildman told the court Kennison had “admitted” shaking the baby “to rouse him out of his state of unconsciousness”.

Kennison has two other children aged six and 10.

Memories ‘shuffled by trauma’

In sentencing submissions held today, Kennison’s defence lawyer Justin Wickens told the court his client had “given varying explanations of what occurred on that day” because her memories had become shuffled by trauma.

He said his client no longer stood by that version of events.

“We wouldn’t suggest for a moment that this action was an attempt to render first aid … or to resuscitate,” Mr Wickens said.

“But she has shaken her baby in frustration, causing the injuries.

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“It is accepted that this offence is one which must carry a sentence of imprisonment.”

Justice David Lovell asked Mr Wickens how the court was supposed to “have faith in any of what she says”, following several changes to the story.

“Her explanation is there was some unusual event that caused her to panic … as opposed to just shaking a baby because she was annoyed with it,” Justice Lovell said.

“They are both quite different.

“She accepts she must have done it but we are still struggling to find what she actually did.”

Mother with ‘incongruent’ observations

The court heard that even though the baby was 14 weeks old at the time of the incident, his prematurity placed him, developmentally, at between two and three weeks old.

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It heard Kennison had offered various judgements during the investigation about the infant’s abilities in terms of sitting, rolling and eating, including that he had started eating “beef and vegetables” and other solids.

“It’s a little bit incongruent given her background in childcare … and her experience with her other children,” Justice Lovell said.

“Her observations of the baby’s abilities are likely to be at odds with the actual situation.”

Justice Lovell ordered a psychiatric report for Kennison, who will appear in court again next week.

Topics: courts-and-trials, murder-and-manslaughter, crime, law-crime-and-justice, adelaide-5000, sa

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