By Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina man has been found not guilty of manslaughter and murder in the death of his girlfriend’s 11-month-old baby.

James Fidel Jennings, 35, was released from jail following Thursday’s decision, after being incarcerated for more than two years, The News & Observer reported. A Wake County jury cleared him of the charges at the conclusion of a three week trial.

Zavion Haywood stopped breathing in a Raleigh apartment in 2012 after Jennings took the baby upstairs alone, according to police and witness testimony. Zavion was declared brain-dead and eventually taken off life-support.

Prosecutors had argued that Jennings intentionally caused Zavion’s asphyxiation out of frustration that morning, while the defense maintained that the infant could’ve died choking on milk or newly introduced solid food.

Zavion’s cousin was 3 years old at the time. The now-11-year-old testified at the trial that she heard Zavion crying from an upstairs room and walked in to see Zavion with Jennings, who told her to leave and told Zavion to “shut up.”

Defense attorney Edd Roberts countered that Zavion’s mother took him to see multiple doctors for issues with spitting up and acid reflux, and that he had recently started eating solid foods, some of which were found on a table from that morning.

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