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People v. Jennings

Supreme Court of Colorado
641 P.2d 276 (1982)


John Jennings (defendant) was convicted by a jury for child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury to Jennings’s four-month-old daughter, Christina, under a state statute that prohibited the cruel punishment of a child. At trial, the evidence showed that Jennings was tending to a fussy and crying Christina at home and attempting to put Christina down for a nap when he became frustrated and slapped her on the head with an open hand. As a result, Christina stopped breathing, lost oxygen to her brain, and suffered severe brain damage and blindness. Jennings admitted that, although he did not intend to harm Christina, the slap caused serious bodily injury. However, Jennings argued that the slap did not constitute felony child abuse under the statute prohibiting cruel punishment, which required that a defendant knowingly, intentionally, or negligently, and without justifiable excuse, cause or permit a child to be cruelly punished. Jennings was found guilty by the jury. Jennings subsequently filed a motion for a new trial and renewed his pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment. The trial court granted Jennings’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the cruel-punishment language used in the criminal statute prohibiting child abuse was unconstitutionally vague.

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Holding and Reasoning (Dubofsky, J.)

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