Trial of couple charged in toddler's death on hold - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Trial of couple charged in toddler's death on hold

The trial has been pushed back to September. (Source: Madison Police Dept.) The trial has been pushed back to September. (Source: Madison Police Dept.)

The trial for a Madison man and woman charged in connection with the death of their 18-month-old daughter, which was set to begin Thursday, has been delayed until September.

Kristopher Joseph Speigner and his wife, Joy Lynn Speigner, were arrested last year in connection with the 2012 death of McKenzie Speigner.

According to court documents, the child died after swallowing a dishwashing detergent tablet. Authorities said the couple waited until the following morning to call for help, and was too intoxicated at the time to do anything to save the child.

The couple will not face a jury. The trial will instead be a bench trial where the judge will make the final decision.

The trial was scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon. However, it was announced the trial has been pushed back to September.

Prosecutor Jason Skully-Clemmons said while this is not a new case, there is a lot of evidence involved. He said there are still loose ends to tie up on both sides.

Skully-Clemmons said new evidence was just turned over to the defense attorney in the case, and they need time to review it.

"In fairness, they need a chance to look over that stuff; there is additional stuff that I need to get that I haven't received yet that I will be getting and giving to the defense. We need to talk also about a possible settlement," Skully-Clemmons said.

Whether or not a settlement is reached, the prosecutor said they will be ready for trial in September, adding that justice for McKenzie is the state's top priority.

"The entire community and our office grieves when there is a child lost," he said. "There are no winners in this situation. As far as how our office handles it, this is just what we are called to do, to protect this community."

If no settlement is reached and the couple is found guilty, the maximum penalty allowable is one year in prison, as the crime is classified a misdemeanor.

After McKenzie's death, some community members started a petition and went to lawmakers for help. Representative Mike Ball drafted a bill that would make the crime a felony in some cases.

It didn't go anywhere in the last legislative session, but Ball said he is working to make it stronger and plans to reintroduce the bill. Ball said prosecutions reflect what society values, and a crime such as this one deserves harsher consequences.

He said the difficulty is trying to structure the law so that people who simply make a horrible mistake aren't punished.

"Parents have responsibilities and most parents step up to them; I've seen circumstances where children lose their lives, and accidents do happen" Ball said. "Tragic accidents happen and then sometimes there are intentionally negligent acts."

Any future change in the law would not affect the outcome of the Speigner trial, but Ball said it is worth it if it brings greater justice to future victims of neglect.

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