The Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld the October 2010 conviction of a Sandlick man accused of murdering his two-year-old foster child in March 2003.
In a unanimous ruling handed down Nov. 23, the court said Jeffrey Allen’s claim that Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright improperly denied Allen’s motion for a directed verdict of not guilty was without merit.
Had the high court ruled in Allen’s favor, it would have been the second time Allen’s conviction on a wanton murder charge in the death of Dakota Yonts would have been overturned.
Allen, 46, was originally convicted in 2006 of beating Dakota to death while the child was in Allen’s care, but the Supreme Court tossed that conviction after ruling that Judge Wright’s decision to allow into evidence a series of non-emergency 9-1-1 phone calls may have prejudiced the jury against Allen.
This time, the Supreme Court ruled there was no error made when Wright refused to enter a ruling of not guilty.
“The evidence presented by the Commonwealth in this case was more than ample to overcome Allen’s motion for a directed verdict,” says the ruling.
Following is the Supreme Court’s summation of the case presented against Allen and the reasons for its ruling against Allen:
“The standard of review on a motion for a directed verdict is well-settled: The trial court must draw all fair and reasonable inferences from the evidence in favor of the Commonwealth. If the evidence is sufficient to induce a reasonable juror to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, a directed verdict should not be given.
“For the purpose of ruling on the motion, the trial court must assume that the evidence for the Commonwealth is true, but reserving to the jury questions as to the credibility and weight to be given to such testimony. On appellate review, the test of a directed verdict is, if under the evidence as a whole, it would be clearly unreasonable for a jury to find guilt, only then the defendant is entitled to a directed verdict of acquittal.
“ The testimony established that Allen and his wife served as foster parents to four siblings. On the afternoon that the child died, a social worker and courtappointed special advocate (CASA) worker visited the Allen home. They noticed that one of the children, Dakota, seemed lethargic and sick. They observed a bruise on his jaw and a mark under his eye. They removed the child’s clothing and found no other bruising.
“Allen’s wife left the home to run errands about the same time that the social worker and CASA worker departed. It was undisputed that Allen stayed home (at Sandlick) with the children. A few hours later, Allen called his wife to tell her that Dakota was sick and to summon her father, an EMT, to the house. Allen and his father-in-law drove towards the hospital with Dakota, but stopped along the way at the (Sandlick) fire department when the child became unresponsive. The assistant fire chief performed CPR on the child until an ambulance arrived. Dakota was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
“The assistant fire chief, two ambulance paramedics, and three hospital nurses testified to the extensive bruising found on Dakota’s abdomen. In addition, all noticed bruising in the shape of a large handprint around the child’s neck. Dr. Rolf, a medical examiner who performed an autopsy of Dakota’s body, also catalogued the severe and extensive bruising found on the child. She opined that Dakota had suffered blunt force injuries to his head, trunk and neck. According to Dr. Rolf, Dakota died of lethal injuries in the area of the abdominal organs that resulted in severe internal bleeding. A contributing cause of death was strangulation or suffocation.
“ Taking this evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, it was more than sufficient to induce a reasonable juror to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Allen was guilty of wanton murder.
“The motion was properly denied.”