Judge Denies Delays in Child Abuse, Murder Trials

October 7, 2016 Abuse and Neglect Attorney


Judge John Hallacy, a Circuit Court Judge in Calhoun County, has refused to grant delays in the unrelated trials of two men accused of child abuse and homicide. In response, both defendants’ attorneys have filed motions with the Michigan Court of Appeals in the hopes of getting the delays they need.


The two 29-year-old men, Leo Ackley and Anthony Ball, are both facing trial for allegedly abusing and killing their girlfriend’s children whom they were babysitting at the time. In Ackley’s case, he is accused of murdering 3-year-old Baylee Stenman in 2011, while Ball is accused of the 2014 death of 20-month-old Athena Ramsey


In 2012, Ackley was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s little daughter, Baylee. She was found unresponsive on the floor in her bedroom, where Ackley said he discovered her after her nap. According to the prosecution, the child died as a result of blunt force trauma or being shaken. As Ackley was the only one home at the time, he was the only suspect. He denied any wrongdoing, and claims that the child must have been harmed as a result of a fall from her bed.


At the time of his initial trial, the jury heard from five separate expert witnesses for the prosecution, all of whom placed the finger of blame squarely on Ackley. Due to the lack of any eyewitness testimony and a lack of confession, the prosecution’s entire case rested on expert testimony.


But Ackley’s court-appointed defense attorney, however, did not respond in kind. Although funding was made available to hire an expert witness to testify on Ackley behalf, and a specific expert witness was even recommended, the defense presented no expert testimony. As a result, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously granted the Battle Creek native another trial.


In Ball’s case, this is the first trial, although it has been delayed numerous times already this year. He is accused of causing his fiance’s daughter, Athena, severe head trauma and brain damage consistent with shaken baby syndrome. She died in 2014 and Ball, who was caring for her alone at the time that she sustained the injuries, was charged with child abuse and murder.


Both trials are scheduled to take place in the Calhoun County Circuit Court. In both cases, expert witness testimony provided by doctors will be shared with the court as part of the prosecution’s case. But both defense attorneys have taken issue with that testimony, saying that  the science determining the cause of deaths in babies and young children is currently undergoing significant changes. As a result, they want the ability to challenge the credibility of those experts before the cases go to trial.


Judge Hallacy, however, disagrees. He ruled in July that there would be no limitations on the scientific evidence presented by either side during the trials. Both defense attorneys have filed appeals with the Michigan Court of Appeals, requesting a chance to challenge the Judge’s ruling on the introduction of evidence, but have not yet received responses. As a result, they are are hoping to delay their respective trials until the Appeals Court rules, but Judge Hallacy refuses.


It remains to be seen how this situation will play out for these two cases. Although the two cases are not in any way related, and the two defendants may never have met one another, it appears that their fates are now inextricably connected. We will be waiting to see how the Appeals Court rules in both of these cases, and how that ruling affects their trials, if at all.
Being falsely accused of child abuse is a life altering experience. It can destroy family relationships and friendships, job opportunities, and entire futures. And believe it or not, it happens more than you realize. The best way to avoid a lifetime behind bars for a crime you didn’t commit, is to have the best possible defense attorney fighting for you, both in and out of court. So call us immediately at 800-576-6035. We can help you with this tragic situation!