Jurors Convict Mom Of Murder For Toilet-Drowning Infant

Juror Claims Panel Unaware They Had Other Options
AP, Oct. 24, 2002

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Jurors who convicted a woman of second-degree murder in the toilet-drowning death of her newborn son may not have realized that they could have convicted her of involuntary manslaughter.

Donna Michelle Knight’s sentencing was postponed for at least two months by Superior Court Judge Ronald Taylor so defense attorney Grover Porter can question jurors to determine if they misunderstood instructions. One juror claimed the panel didn’t know involuntary manslaughter was an option.

Knight, 37, was convicted June 14 of murdering her son in September 1999. The 10-woman, two-man jury returned a second-degree murder verdict, which calls for 15 years to life in prison. Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of four years.

Deputy District Attorney Deena Bennett had sought a first-degree murder conviction, arguing that the unmarried woman intentionally killed her baby after concealing her pregnancy because she was afraid of repercussions from her Jehovah’s Witness church.

Bennett said the religion considers sexual relations outside of marriage grounds for excommunication.

Porter argued that Knight, who weighed at least 275 pounds, did not know she was pregnant and on the day of the baby’s death she was taking antidepressants and other medication and could not remember what happened.

Although jurors were given an instruction for involuntary manslaughter, the foreman told them they could not consider that option, a juror said. Actually, it was voluntary manslaughter that was not to be considered.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 25, 2002.
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