Recent child car deaths raise questions: When is it a crime? - - Jackson, MS

Recent child car deaths raise questions: When is it a crime?

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

It's the second time in two weeks a child has died in a hot car after a parent left them behind. This time, Thursday's death in Grenada comes with charges of second-degree murder against the father.

Dozens of viewers took to the WLBT 3 On Your Side Facebook page, expressing their disgust that Joshua Lewis Blunt faces murder charges while a Brandon woman who left her child in a hot car last week remains free.

It's also a case that many of Facebook's armchair lawyers have already decided.

Between comments ranging from mentions of "white privilege" to "we don't know the whole story," there's no shortage of opinions on social media.

"There's still no autopsy report on the child from Madison, yet they have enough to charge this man in 12 hours," said Ukila Collum.

That's why 3 On Your Side decided to look into the legal ramifications behind something like this.

"The law is inherently ambiguous. When you have an accidental death, then the question is what was, in this case, the parent or the adult's criminal intent, if any? said Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matt Steffey.

Steffey said there are two different outcomes here because different people in different jurisdictions made the decisions.

Once a criminal act takes place, charges come in one of two forms: from law enforcement or a grand jury after the district attorney presents the evidence.

"The knee-jerk reaction is, when something bad happens, we want to criminalize it, and it may not be that this is actually a criminal issue," said criminal defense attorney Kevin Camp.

In the Grenada case, Blunt's charge remains second-degree murder, which means something more than negligence or reckless behavior.

"It's what's called a depraved heart, a moral responsibility equivalent to the intent to kill or cause someone grievous bodily harm," Steffey said.

Steffey said that falls under the same category as driving drunk at a high rate of speed through a busy intersection, or even firing a gun without checking if it's loaded or not.

Both law experts agree on one thing that may anger many on social media, though: law enforcement hasn't released all the facts.

"We're not privy to all the information," Camp added.

Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest said his office plans to present the Brandon woman's case to a grand jury in a few months.

Guest said the most likely charge that could come against her is culpable negligence manslaughter.

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