Mother to serve 3 months for manslaughter of child

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:17 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

A Columbia woman convicted of suffocating her baby in December 2005 was sentenced to three months in jail on Tuesday, after Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton said that the case raised questions about double jeopardy.

In February, a Boone County jury convicted Nicole West, 25, of second-degree involuntary man­-

slaughter and felony child endangerment in connection with the suffocation death of her 6½-month-old daughter, Deja West.

The jury recommended that West serve three months for each charge, but at her sentencing on Tuesday, Hamilton ordered that the sentences be served concurrently.

The maximum punishment West could have received was 11 years in prison — seven years for first-degree endangering the welfare of a child, a class C felony, and four years for second-degree involuntary manslaughter, a class D felony.

Before West’s trial began, her lawyer, public defender Jenean Thompson, said the state alleged the same facts in both charges against West — violating West’s double jeopardy protection — so she asked Hamilton to drop one of the charges. Double jeopardy is the common-law and constitutional prohibition against more than one prosecution for the same crime, transaction or omission, according to the Missouri Bar Association’s Handbook on Law and Courts.

But Hamilton denied the motion.

During West’s trial, Boone County prosecutor Richard Hicks said that on Dec. 26, 2005, West became agitated by Deja’s crying and laid her facedown in her crib at West’s boyfriend’s apartment. She covered the baby with a blanket.

West then went to smoke marijuana and watch TV, and when she returned less than two hours later, she discovered that Deja was unresponsive, Hicks said. She called the police.

The defense’s key witness, Thomas Young, former Jackson County medical examiner, said the results from his own investigation did not match those of Boone County Interim Medical Examiner Eddie Adelstein, which indicated that the child had died from suffocation.

Young testified that pretrial lab results and analysis did not indicate that Deja died from suffocation, nor did they indicate that her death was a homicide.

He said that the death was caused by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS, not by any neglect on West’s part.

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