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Prosecutors: Lake deserves tougher sentence

A Cannon Falls man charged with manslaughter in connection with a toddler's death deserves tougher than normal penalties if convicted, according to Goodhue County prosecutors.

Justin Lake allegedly admitted to police that on July 1, 2009, while babysitting 2-year-old Jazmyn Weiker-Hanson, he caused her to violently hit her head. Lake then delayed seeking medical attention for the toddler. Weiker-Hanson died four days later.

"The cause of her death can directly be attributed to him delaying to seek medical attention," assistant county attorney Erin Kuester argued in a district court hearing Friday.

Prosecutors were attempting to convince First District Court Judge Kevin Mark on Friday that Weiker-Hanson's vulnerability as a toddler and Lake's decision to delay medical treatment are aggravating factors that warrant stiffer sentences.

If Mark agrees with prosecutors, Lake would have a two-part trial. In the first part, a jury would be asked to find him innocent or guilty. In the second part, the jury would be asked to consider aggravating factors. If the jury agreed with the prosecution, a judge could impose a tougher sentence of up to 10 years.

Mark took the issue under advisement and his ruling is pending.

In response, Lake's attorney argued that any evidence prosecutors wanted to use in the second part of the trail should be excluded from the first part of the trial. He also said in order to prove there were aggravating factors, the prosecution must show Lake's behavior was especially egregious compared to other manslaughter cases.

On the night of the incident, Lake had admitted to smoking marijuana before babysitting Weiker-Hanson, according to the police complaint. The complaint also states:

Initially, Lake told investigators the toddler had fallen off a bed. He later changed his story and said he'd been spinning Weiker-Hanson when he slipped and the girl hit her head on a doorknob. He then laid Weiker-Hanson down on a couch. Later, he called the victim's mother and then Cannon Falls Area Hospital.