COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A picture is worth a thousand words and the bruises on Jessica Conaway's 5-year-old son's body led to a jury's conviction on child abuse.
Instead of finding her guilty on one or the other, the 12-member panel chose both the felony and the misdemeanor, child cruelty and battery, earlier this month.
Defense attorney Moffet Flournoy tried to persuade the judge against sentencing on the greater charge using the Rules of Lenity. They allow a judge to use the lesser charge, working in the defendant's favor.
"In this case, I think a misdemeanor would have been more appropriate than a felony," added Flournoy.
Judge Bill Rumer decided on the felony with a lighter sentence. "What he imposed is exactly what we had tried to negotiate, so I'm satisfied," recalled prosecutor LaRae Moore Dixon.
Five years probation is what Conaway received for child cruelty. Moore says the state put that same offer on table before trial, but Conaway declined to take it, perhaps, hoping the jury would see things her way.
"She can continue with her life instead of going to prison for spanking her child. There were bruises on the child but she may have gone too far, but the sentence is appropriate," said Flournoy.
Conaway admitted whipping her son, two years ago, with a belt for kicking a teacher twice and slapping another student at school. The defendant's mother told the court her daughter spanked him while angry but says Conaway is a good mother.
Conaway spent 30 days in jail when arrested, while pregnant with her second child. Under the sentence, she is also prohibited from using corporal punishment on her children and must attend parenting classes.