- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A central Mississippi grand jury has chosen not to indict a mother whose toddler daughter died after being left in a hot car in May, a prosecutor said Thursday.

District Attorney Michael Guest said grand jurors in Madison County, just outside Jackson, heard testimony this week about the death of 2-year-old Carolyn Bryant and declined to bring charges against her mother, Amy Bryant of Brandon.

The decision involving a white mother is in contrast to a similar case involving a black father in another part of the state.

A grand jury in northern Mississippi’s Grenada County indicted Joshua Blunt on a manslaughter charge in July, several weeks after his 8-month-old daughter, Shania Rihanna Caradine, died after being left in his hot car. Blunt’s attorney, Carlos Moore, said both hot-car deaths were tragic accidents and he believes Blunt is being treated more harshly because he’s black.

“I do recognize we are in Mississippi and race plays a great factor in our criminal justice system of who is arrested, indicted and convicted,” Moore said Thursday.

Shania’s mother, Shanice Caradine filed an affidavit Tuesday asking Grenada County District Attorney Doug Evans to drop the charge against Blunt.

“I do not believe Joshua Blunt should be charged with any crime in relation to the death of our daughter, Shania Caradine,” the affidavit says. “I honestly believe that it was a tragic accident.”

Grenada’s city prosecutor had pledged to reduce Blunt’s charge to a misdemeanor after he was initially arrested on a second-degree murder charge, but Evans obtained a manslaughter indictment. The felony charge is punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

Evans said the affidavit would not affect the prosecution of the case. It is set for trial Aug. 18, but Evans said it’s likely to be delayed by a judge’s scheduling conflict.

Caroline Bryant was found dead May 11 in the back seat of her mother’s car after Amy Bryant forgot to drop her off that morning at a child care facility in Gluckstadt. Amy Bryant returned to the child care facility thinking she needed to pick up her daughter, only to be told she had never dropped the child off. Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker called it a “tragic accident.” Although Tucker did not file charges, Guest said he would present the case to a grand jury.

Shania Caradine died May 18 after being found unconscious in her father’s car, where she had been left while he worked in a restaurant.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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