Hearing held for teenager charged in 3-month-old daughter’s death

Posted April 30, 2010, at 8:37 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:30 a.m.

CARIBOU, Maine — A District Court heard from several witnesses on Friday to try to determine whether a Limestone teenager should be tried for manslaughter as an adult or a juvenile in connection with the death of his 3-month-old daughter.

Nicklas Jones of Limestone was 17 when he was charged in connection with the death last April of his daughter Joselyn Jones. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of manslaughter in Caribou District Court last May. He has been held at the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston ever since.

Friday’s hearing was held to determine how Jones, now 18, will be tried. Three witnesses testified at the daylong hearing before Judge Ronald Daigle.

Joselyn Jones died April 27, 2009, from injuries she reportedly suffered four days earlier. Maine State Police investigators said the baby died from blunt force trauma to the head. Police allege that her father threw the baby into her crib on April 23 to stop her from crying. Jones was arrested on May 1, 2009.

Jones appeared in court dressed in a black shirt and bluejeans with his hands and legs shackled. Friends and family members also were in the courtroom.

Jones’ attorney, Anthony Trask of Presque Isle, maintained that his client should be tried as a juvenile and presented witnesses testifying to that effect.

Dr. Charles Robinson, a forensic psychologist, testified for the defense that he had conducted a number of psychological tests on Jones. He described Jones as a “real mouthy kid” who has anger management problems and frequently used marijuana before his arrest. He said Jones suffers from a “lack of insight” about how his be-havior affects others. He also said Jones has remorse over his daughter’s death.

Jones has a juvenile record for assaulting his mother, refusing to submit to arrest and various probation violations, according to Robinson, and spent 20 days in Mountain View on those charges.

Robinson said he believes Jones should stay in the juvenile system in order to benefit from mental health and other services offered at Mountain View.

While Robinson acknowledged that Jones “does not have a high tolerance for frustration” and at times minimizes his actions and behavior, he said Jones’ attitude has changed for the better since his arrest.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson disputed the claim of an attitude change, pointing to testimony that Jones has had 16 discipline reports in his file since he arrived at Mountain View. The infractions include being physically aggressive toward residents and on two occasions being out of control and destroying state property. Jones also was recently asked to stop attending a program at Mountain View because he was being disruptive. He has not been disciplined since last October.

Dr. Debra Baeder, a forensic psychologist with the State Forensic Service, was torn on whether Jones should be tried as a juvenile or an adult. She also made a court-ordered psychological evaluation of Jones and testified for the state. She said Jones has a history of violence and also a history of nonviolent offenses. She said he has avoided interventions to help him, has not followed through on treatment, and has a “marked anger management problem.”

“He feels some remorse [over his daughter's death], but it seems superficial to me,” she told Benson. She said she considered him “at least at a moderate risk of reoffending” if convicted and then released.

Baeder said she did not think there was enough time left in the juvenile system for Jones to get help if he is convicted as a juvenile and released when he is 21. She also said she was concerned Jones would just wait out his sentence if convicted as a juvenile without partaking in any services. She said one of the benefits of Jones being in the adult system if he is convicted is that he would have supervision when he is released, such as probation.

Benson had stated publicly his desire for Jones to be tried as an adult because he is “chronologically almost an adult” and there are inadequate options in the juvenile system to treat Jones.

The hearing will conclude Monday, when Jones’ mother and other witnesses are expected to testify.

If Jones is convicted of manslaughter as an adult, he faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. If convicted as a juvenile, he would have to be released by the time he is 21 years old.

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