Jury Finds Daycare Owner
Guilty Of Negligence Boy’s Drowning
A jury delivered a guilty verdict for Melissa Smith, the woman accused in a toddler’s death at her Lehigh Acres daycare, but they lessened all the charges below what the prosecution was asking for.
“We the jury find as follows as to the defendant in this case. Count 1 the defendant is guilty of child neglect,” a juror said in court.
Jurors did not find Smith guilty of aggravated manslaughter that would have been the harshest charge in her trial. Instead, the jurors found her guilty of neglect for the death of 2-year-old Christian Byrd after he drowned in a kiddie pool.
Smith ran the daycare Christian attended.
Originally, Smith was facing four felonies. The jury decided to convict her on only one felony and three misdemeanors.
When jurors read the verdict, people in courtroom were confused, including Smith’s lawyer.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense legally, because culpable negligence was the standard for both, so what I think happened here is the jury made a compromise. They didn’t want to go all the way for manslaughter. They didn’t want to go all the way to not guilty, and they met in the middle,” said Robert Harris, Smith’s lawyer.