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Child abuse conviction overturned by Court of Appeals

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By Linda Ireland

 The August 2010 conviction of a New Haven man who allegedly abused his infant son was overturned by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

David Richard Reynolds, now 28, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on a charge of first-degree criminal abuse. 

He appealed the conviction, arguing that the court improperly admitted evidence in the three-day trial.

At the trial, a forensic pediatrician testified the infant, Caleb, the son of Reynolds and Amber Roberts, suffered 20 fractures to ribs, wrist and shin and a brain injury by the time he was 3-months-old.

Dr. Melissa Curry of the University of Louisville School of Medicine presented X-rays of the child in court. She said Caleb’s 13 broken ribs were the result of “violent squeezing of the chest.”

According to court records, Reynolds claimed the injuries could have resulted when the child rolled off a couch during a diaper change, had been dropped or when an older sibling had stepped on him.

LaRue Circuit Judge John Seay held a hearing on May 5, 2010, and determined “the evidence of prior bad acts was admissible” in the trial. However, the Appeals Court said testimony about Reynolds’ violence toward Roberts was inadmissible as it showed conduct toward her – not Caleb. The testimony could be permissible if used in a second trial to prove another point.

The Appeals Court likewise did not permit testimony about Reynolds’ treatment of his ex-wife, Wendy McFarland. And, McFarland’s testimony was deemed to be prejudicial to Reynolds’ case

The Appeals Court said no one actually saw Reynolds inflict the injuries on Caleb; the doctor could not say exactly when or how Caleb was injured; there was no evidence that Reynolds had abused or struck either of his other children; and others were alone with Caleb when the abuse could have occurred.

Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Whitney Meredith said the new plea agreement was reached in part because Reynolds had already served three years of his sentence. He had been denied parole once.

“We felt if we re-tried the case we would be in the exact situation (of Reynolds serving time),” she said. “It was a tough decision.”

Reynolds’ 6-year-old son testified against him in the first trial and family members did not want the child “to go through that again,” Meredith said.

Reynolds pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal abuse, a misdemeanor, and was released from jail. He was sentenced to 12 months, conditionally discharged, upon condition of no future acts of domestic violence. He cannot have contact with his children or his ex-wife.

If he violates his yearlong probation he will return to jail and will not be credited for time already served.

According to medical documentation in court records, Caleb is at “high risk” for lifelong seizures, cerebral palsy and developmental delays.

The child was placed in foster care and has been adopted.