This week, a jury decides whether a Fort Benning soldier who served in Iraq with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division fatally injured his 8-month-old son in Columbus, a year after the serviceman returned home.
Shane Eric Hinkson was 28 years old when son Alexander Cabanayan died from head injuries Jan. 6, 2012, at the Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta. The child had been taken there by helicopter after the boy's mother rushed him to Columbus' St. Francis Hospital on Jan. 1.
The mother, who was engaged to Hinkson, told police the boy had been in Hinkson's care in an apartment at 1534 Antietam Drive. She also told them she'd left Hinkson there, and he had a gun and was threatening to harm himself.
During pretrial hearings last week, Hinkson's attorney David Wolfe told Judge Frank Jordan Jr. that the mother and child got to the hospital at 2:55 p.m., and a police officer was summoned at 3:51 p.m.
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Detectives acting on the mother's information went to the Antietam Drive apartment, where they found and confiscated a handgun loaded with one live round. They also started taking photographs to document what they considered a crime scene.
Reports showed officers started photographing the apartment at 5:54 p.m.
Hinkson had gone to Fort Benning, where military police detained and turned him over to Columbus investigators, who questioned him that night. Initially charged with assault, Hinkson was charged with murder after his son's death.
Wolfe last week argued officers had no warrant or probable cause to enter Hinkson's apartment, because all they knew then was what the mother told them. Because she could have lied, police should have considered her as much a suspect in the baby's injuries as Hinkson, Wolfe said.
Prosecutors countered that the mother's account created "exigent circumstances" for police to act urgently to prevent violence and ensure Hinkson's safety.
Jordan ruled that "exigent circumstances" justified officers' entering the apartment to secure the gun, but once they found Hinkson wasn't home, the circumstances changed. The judge decided the photos police took were inadmissible as evidence.
Wolfe also argued Hinkson's arrest and interrogation were illegal, because no warrant had been issued and no probable cause existed for MPs to detain Hinkson and surrender him to Columbus police, who similarly lacked justification to hold him.
Wolfe maintained that detectives' reading Hinkson his constitutional rights did not matter when police had no authority to detain him to begin with.
After Friday's court proceedings, Wolfe said Jordan rejected his arguments.
Attorneys picked a jury last week, so they are expected to make their opening statements today. The trial starts at 9 a.m. in Jordan's 10th floor courtroom in the Columbus Government Center.