High court overturns murder conviction

BATTLE CREEK (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has unanimously overturned a murder conviction in the death of a three-year-old girl, saying a defense lawyer didn’t prepare for “battle” in a case dominated by opinions from experts.

Leo Ackley, 28, is serving a no-parole sentence in the 2011 death of his girlfriend’s daughter, Baylee Stenman. The Calhoun County prosecutor’s office accused him of fatally shaking her or striking her.

The prosecutor called five medical experts who said Baylee died from a head injury caused by abuse. Ackley said the girl must have fallen.

But Ackley’s attorney, Ken Marks, didn’t present any experts to back up that theory or to challenge the prosecutor’s experts. He consulted a doctor who warned him that he wouldn’t be a good defense witness.

“While we cannot say that a battle of the experts would have ensured the defendant’s acquittal, counsel’s failure to prepare or show up for the battle” undermines our confidence in the result of the trial, said Justice Bridget
McCormack, who wrote the opinion.

Marks declined to comment on the decision. He said he’s being sued by Ackley, who could be brought to trial again.