Attorneys argued pretrial motions Wednesday in the case against a Fort Benning infantryman accused of killing his 8-month-old son by giving the infant a traumatic head injury on Jan. 1, 2012.
Shane Eric Hinkson was 28 years old, a sergeant serving with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, when Columbus police charged him with murder after his son Alexander Cabanayan died from the injuries Jan. 6, 2012.
Hinkson since has undergone a psychological evaluation that found him competent at the time of his alleged offense and competent to stand trial, though attorneys argued Wednesday whether jurors could hear ifHinkson has post-traumatic stress disorder.
Assistant District Attorney William Hocutt IV said that should not be a factor in Hinkson’s trial, and any mention of it would serve only to “garner sympathy” from the jury.
Hinkson’s defense attorney David Wolfe of Atlanta, who’s assisted by Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson, said Hinkson’s military service and state of mind the day his son fatally was injured is “incredibly relevant” to the case. Hinkson served in a combat zone in Iraq and had been home just a year before his son’s death, Wolfe said.
The attorney said Hinkson’s state of mind was crucial particularly because the state in two of the counts against him accused him of criminal negligence.
Hocutt said those two counts, the last of seven in Hinkson’s indictment, would be dismissed. They charge Hinkson with second-degree child cruelty and felony murder based on second-degree child cruelty.
Hinkson’s other charges are malice or intentional murder, felony murder for killing the baby while committing the felony of aggravated assault, felony murder for killing the child while committing first-degree child cruelty, and the two underlying counts of aggravated assault and first-degree cruelty to children.
Another issue attorneys argued Wednesday was whether police were justified in entering Hinkson’s Antietam Drive apartment after he’d left. Inside officers seized a pistol loaded with one cartridge and took photographs to document the scene.
Prosecutors argued the search was authorized under “exigent circumstances,” as Hinkson’s girlfriend, the child’s mother, had told detectives that when she left the apartment to take her son to St. Francis Hospital, Hinkson was there with a gun to his head, threatening to kill himself.
Wolfe argued the “exigent circumstances” were over by then, because too much time passed between her conveying that information and police arriving at the apartment. The mother got to the hospital at 2:55 p.m. that day, and police apparently didn’t get to the apartment until after 5 p.m. Evidence showed an officer started taking photos there at 5:54 p.m.
Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan Jr. ruled that police did not need a search warrant to enter the apartment and seize the loaded gun, but the “exigent circumstances” ended after they found the residence empty. The photographs therefore were inadmissible, the judge said.
Despite defense arguments, the judge ruled also that police properly informed Hinkson of his constitutional rights before he was questioned, so the statements he gave detectives were admissible at trial.
Wolfe had argued that police had Hinkson handcuffed and shackled while questioning him “several hours” in a “small locked room,” and both the detention and interrogation violated his rights.
Jury selection for Hinkson’s trial is to begin today. Attorneys had expected the trial to start Monday, but Jordan wants to proceed as soon as jurors are seated.
Police in 2012 said Hinkson was engaged to Alexander Cabanayan’s mother, but still was living with a roommate at his 1534 Antietam Drive apartment until the lease expired. The child’s mother came home to find the baby unresponsive and rushed the child to the hospital, where the boy was in critical condition with severe brain injuries.
The infant later was flown by helicopter to Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, where he had surgery. He died five days later at 10:15 p.m., authorities said.