Conviction of woman who shook baby to death stands

Amy Danielle Wilkerson

By Monica Land

JACKSON – The Mississippi Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from a Jackson County woman convicted of murder in the death of an infant left in her care.

Amy Danielle Wilkerson pleaded guilty in 2007 to the murder of 2-month-old Tristan Chinn. Prosecutors say the baby was shaken to death.

Wilkerson, now 36, was sentenced to life in prison.

Wilkerson claimed her plea was involuntary because: (1) the circuit court failed to explain to her the minimum and maximum sentences she faced; (2) she was not given an opportunity to explain her “own version of the alleged [baby] shaking”; and (3) she only had 30 minutes to contemplate her plea.

But Wilkerson’s request to go back to Jackson County Circuit Court to prove those claims has been denied.

Last year, the state Court of Appeals said Wilkerson was thoroughly advised of the consequences of her guilty plea and nothing her attorney did rendered the plea involuntary.

Court documents show that during the early morning hours of July 18, 2005, Tristan’s parents followed their normal routine. Tristan’s mother played with him before going to work and his father dropped him off later at Wilkerson’s home for her to babysit him that day.

Tristan’s parents had been introduced to Wilkerson through friends at a wedding.

Tristan’s father testified that the baby was in perfect health when he left him with Wilkerson.

About five hours later, 911 received a call reporting that Tristan was not breathing.

Responding paramedics arrived to find Wilkerson attempting to perform CPR on the infant. Tristan was taken to the hospital and died a short time later.

Autopsy results showed he died of massive brain hemorrhaging.

During questioning, Wilkerson gave several conflicting accounts of the events surrounding Tristan’s death. At the hospital, Wilkerson told Tristan’s mother that Tristan had been injured while riding in the car. Wilkerson later told police detectives that Tristan’s injury occurred when he fell from the couch and hit his head.

Wilkerson eventually confessed that her “couch story” was false and that she had actually shaken Tristan to death.

Wilkerson waived her preliminary hearing and was indicted for capital murder by a Jackson County grand jury. She later entered into a plea agreement and pled guilty to depraved heart murder.

Three years later, Wilkerson filed a motion arguing that her trial attorneys were ineffective.

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