Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Appeals Court upholds conviction of Tower man in infant death case

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 2/12/20

TOWER— The state Court of Appeals has upheld the 2018 conviction of Jesse Lee Bonacci-Koski for second-degree manslaughter in the death of his 11-month nephew, while remanding the case to the …

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Appeals Court upholds conviction of Tower man in infant death case

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TOWER— The state Court of Appeals has upheld the 2018 conviction of Jesse Lee Bonacci-Koski for second-degree manslaughter in the death of his 11-month nephew, while remanding the case to the district court for resentencing.
Bonacci-Koski’s nephew, Bentley Joe Lewis Koski, died alone in his crib of smoke inhalation on Aug. 2, 2017, as a result of a house fire in Tower. The child’s parents had left Bonacci-Koski in charge of the child overnight, but he left the young boy alone to use drugs and then fled the scene after he returned to the residence only to find it filled with smoke.
When a neighbor reported the blaze, firefighters had assumed no one was at home and did not discover the infant, who was in an upstairs bedroom, until a search of the house after they had extinguished the first-floor fire.
The Court of Appeals, in an unpublished decision issued Monday, rejected the arguments of Bonacci-Koski’s attorneys that the state had insufficient evidence to show Bonacci-Koski’s actions had led in any way to the young boy’s death. “The evidence reveals that B.K. [the child] died from smoke inhalation after being left along in a crib while a house fire started. Appellant placed B.K. in that situation. As B.K.’s caretaker, appellant retained responsibility for the situation that caused B.K’s death.
The court also found that the jury could have reasonably concluded that Bonacci-Koski’s decision to flee the scene delayed the intervention that might have saved the child’s life.
The court also dismissed arguments that a biased juror had been seated into the jury over the objections of the defense. While the juror in question had questioned her ability to be impartial, she later definitively stated under questioning by the prosecution that she would abide by a court directive to remain impartial.
While the court did uphold the conviction, it also remanded the case back to the district court for resentencing because the district court had entered two convictions on the manslaughter offenses. The court cited Minn. Stat. 609.04, Subd 1, which states that “upon prosecution for a crime, the actor may be convicted of either the crime charged or an included offense, but not both.”
The court concluded that “the district court cannot enter formal convictions for alternative counts of the same crime committed against the same victim.”
The decision means one of the two convictions will be vacated and that Bonacci-Koski will be resentenced for a single violation.

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