Court acquits Tyler grandparents sentenced for scalding granddau - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Court acquits Tyler grandparents sentenced for scalding granddaughter

Shelley Walker, left, and Kenneth Walker have been acquitted after they were sentenced for burning their 2-year-old granddaughter in scalding water. (Source: Smith County Jail) Shelley Walker, left, and Kenneth Walker have been acquitted after they were sentenced for burning their 2-year-old granddaughter in scalding water. (Source: Smith County Jail)
Shelley Walker. Photo Source: Smith County Jail. Shelley Walker. Photo Source: Smith County Jail.
Kenneth Walker. Photo Source: Smith County Jail. Kenneth Walker. Photo Source: Smith County Jail.
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

The state's highest criminal appeals court has acquitted two East Texans accused of burning their granddaughter's feet in scalding water.

Shelley and Kenneth Walker, of Tyler, were arrested in 2012 and charged with injury to a child. They were both sentenced to 25 years in prison.

According to officials, they were the girl's primary caregivers. The 2-year-old girl received second degree burns on her feet and ankles while under her grandparents' supervision. According to doctors, the child had to have been held in about 135-degree water for nearly 10 seconds to receive the burns consistent with her injuries.

The Walkers filed appeals with state courts arguing evidence was not sufficient to sustain their convictions.

In their appeal, their attorney James Huggler said the Smith County jury’s conclusion they intentionally immersed child’s feet was “based on the drawing of multiple unreasonable inferences.”

The Court of Criminal Appeals found the evidence insufficient to prove either engaged in intentionally immersing child’s feet in hot water and rendered judgments of acquittal for both Kenneth and Shelley Walker.

The Walker's attorney said he is pleased with the court's decision and is filing paperwork to get them released from state custody.

"I'm glad the Court of Criminal Appeals reached this conclusion about the evidence in the case and look forward to the Walkers being released," Huggler said.

READ MORE: Grandparents arrested, accused of burning toddler's feet in bathtub

"Given the number of outstanding questions about whether the injury was accidental or Intentionally inflicted, how this alleged offense might have been committed, and who might have committed it, we conclude that a rational jury would have had at most only a strong suspicion of guilt under these circumstances, therefore, we hold the evidence insufficient and render judgments of acquittal," Judge Cheryl Johnson said.

Six court of criminal appeals judges signed the opinion of the court, while three judges issued a dissenting opinion.

The “dissenting” opinion by the three judges agrees with the acquittal of Shelley Walker. However, the three judges said they would have vacated the judgment of Kenneth and sent it back to a lower court to “address whether the evidence may have been sufficient to convict Kenneth of a lesser-included offense.”

“Because the Court prematurely acquits Kenneth altogether, I respectfully dissent to the Court’s disposition of his case,” Judge Kevin Yeary wrote.

The Smith County District Attorney's Office prosecuted the case in 2012. District Attorney Matt Bingham said he respected the decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals, but believes it's clear what the jury thought about the couple's involvement.

Bingham said the State had one of Dr. Steven Wolf, a leading expert in the field of burn and trauma care. However the Court of Criminal Appeals argued the expert testimony in the case:

The human desire to defer to an 'expert' is innate and not always rational. In this case, the jury acted irrationally in deferring to the experts' unsupported conclusions that Kenneth, Shelley, or both of them, intentionally caused the injury to the victim when they found the defendants guilty of the offense of intentional injury to a child. We do not know, nor can we know, how the child came to be injured without resort to speculation. Putting a scientific gloss over that speculation does not make the evidence more certain.

Bingham said not only did the jury decide the Walkers were guilty, but a grand jury before that time decided the district attorney's office had enough to take the case to trial.

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