Jury finds Columbus mom guilty of child cruelty, sentence delay - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Jury finds Columbus mother guilty of child cruelty, sentencing delayed

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(Source: Roslyn Giles) (Source: Roslyn Giles)
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

A Columbus jury found a mother guilty of crossing the line with her 7-year-old son.

Jessica Conaway seemed shocked when the verdict was read in Judge Bill Rumer's court Wednesday. 

News Leader 9's Roslyn Giles was there.

This case came about last May when the father noticed blue and black bruises on the then 5-year-old during a weekend visit. The beating was allegedly for kicking a teacher twice and slapping another student.

He called police and DFCS got involved. Investigators arrested the mother 27-year-old Jessica Conaway and charged her with a felony of cruelty to children.

She stayed in jail for a month. At the time, she was three months pregnant with her second child.

Wednesday, a jury found her guilty on the felony and a lesser charge of battery

 "This child has some serious injuries and they were not just on his rear end, but he had marks on his rear end, his back, arms, legs, stomach and I'm just glad the jury agreed with me," said prosecutor LaRae Dixon Moore.

"We are very disappointed with the jury's verdict," said defense attorney Moffett Flournoy. "I understand this was a hard case to decide. But this was a mother who spanked her child because he had attacked a teacher at school and was suspended for doing the same thing the week before."

The child was also whipped for slapping another child at school.

The state of Georgia allows parents to discipline their children with corporal punishment and physical force, but when does discipline rise to the level of a criminal act?  A prosecutor trying Conaway's case explained

"You can't say, that's it, one mark you're going to be charged, that's not fair; that's not reasonable.  Outside of broken bones, bruised internal organs, when you're talking about scars, marks, and bruises, it's one of those things where you know it when you see it.  If it shocks you when you see it, then I would say it's too much," said senior asst. district attorney, LaRae Moore, "We definitely don't want parents thinking, if I spank my child, I'm going to be prosecuted.  That's absolutely not the case.  It's okay to spank your children.  Is it reasonable to expect that if you spank your children, you're going to leave a mark? Yes. The question is, did it injure the child?"

This case created a buzz on Facebook from our WTVM viewers.

Shaundra Williams wrote: "wow, let her go home...she was training her child up the right way. In this case, my momma and every other mother should have been in jail years ago."

Jennifer Fletcher said "It is interesting that the child was being punished for a violent act with a violent act. Spanking rarely works as a long-term deterrent to bad behavior."

Monica Wadell thinks this is ridiculous: If he does something worse like, kill someone then the state would want to discipline him. That's the problem, no one can discipline their children!"  

Judge Rumer delayed sentencing until January 29 at 9 a.m. to allow the attorneys time to research arguments on whether she should be sentenced under both the charges: cruelty to children and battery.

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