Court Overturns Man’s Conviction For Baby Death
(Boone County, Ky.) – A 15 year prison sentence for a Hebron father previously convicted in the death of his two-month-old daughter is being put on hold.
Benjamin Senseman was convicted in Boone County court in December 2010 of manslaughter and criminal abuse. His infant daughter, Chloe, died July 12, 2009 of head trauma and broken ribs, doctors said.
Senseman’s wife, Laura, was also tried for the same crimes but was not convicted.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned the father’s conviction. The judges found that Senseman’s confession to detectives following his child’s death was coerced. The court also ruled that Senseman was not properly read his Miranda Rights.
According to the court’s opinion issued June 8, Senseman was coerced into confessing to Chloe’s death. He gave detectives a written statement, but not before detectives read him his rights.
“If a suspect is in custody, he must receive a warning regarding his Fifth Amendment rights before being questioned,” the court’s ruling read.
During the questioning, Detective Robert Wilson told Senseman that “the science is 100%” that Senseman had caused the fatal head injury to the baby and he “must have caused her death.”
Two experts – one for the Commonwealth and one for Senseman – both testified at trial that Chloe’s fatal injury could have occurred “minutes to weeks” prior to her death. During the interrogation, Wilson suggested the injuries had occurred during a two-hour window which Senseman was the only adult with Chloe before finding the baby in distress in her crib that July day.
Another possibility brought up throughout Senseman’s trial was the possibility that the couple’s two-year-old son could have caused the injuries that resulted in Chloe’s death.
“Significantly, Detective Wilson admitted that once he had obtained Senseman’s statement, he immediately ceased any additional investigation – even though he had considered the boy’s involvement a distinct possibility,” according to the court.
“Other than the self-incriminating statement that Senseman provided to Detective Wilson, there was no other evidence to inculpate Senseman or to support his conviction. Multiple witnesses – family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances – testified that they had never observed Senseman being violent or hot-tempered,” the ruling stated.
The appeals court did remand for a re-trial with the coerced confession inadmissible as evidence. The decision on a re-trial will be made by the Boone County Commonwealth’s Attorney.