A grand jury decided Thursday morning not to indict 23-year-old Crystal Kinchen, a mother who was arrested by Baton Rouge police in November after her toddler son accidentally shot her one-year-old daughter.
Kinchen was arrested on a count of second-degree cruelty to juveniles after her two-year-old son found her friend's gun in his car and it fired, striking his sister in the head.
The girl survived after life-saving brain surgery. Kinchen said she didn't know the gun was in the car when her friend gave her and her two children a ride. The gun was legally owned by her friend, who was not arrested.
Nineteenth Judicial District Court Commissioner Nicole Robinson read the decision to grant a "no true bill" for Kinchen, meaning the 10-person grand jury did not find enough evidence to charge her with the felony.
"I'm really happy I didn't get charged with it," Kinchen said after finding out the grand jury's decision. "I can't afford any more time away from my children."
After the decision, Kinchen filed an application with the court to expunge the felony arrest from her record so she can get her job back cleaning schools, which requires a background check.
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East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he believes the grand jury made the right decision in this case.
"I think based on what they had, given the statements of all those involved, and the way the law is, the grand jury's decision was the appropriate legal and factual decision," Moore said Thursday afternoon.
Louisiana is among the minority of states without specific laws that place criminal liability on parents who give children unsupervised access to firearms, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco based nonprofit.
Without such a law, Moore said, his best option is usually to try to prove negligence for the adult at fault, which he said is a tough burden to bear.
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"I'm sure this mother is serving her own sentence," he said.
Kinchen's daughter, Journee' Campbell, who will be two in April, is partially deaf and takes seizure medication daily, but otherwise her development is almost back on-track for her age, Kinchen said.
Moore said his office will now look into whether criminal negligence charges should be brought against the man whose gun was fired by Kinchen's son. Moore said he does not believe the man intentionally left his gun where the children could find it, but he was possibly negligent.
This case is a good reminder for everyone who owns a gun to keep it safe, Moore said.
"Make sure the weapon is secure, make sure you know where it is and that it's not around the hands of a child," Moore said. "Children are inquisitive when it comes to guns."