A prejudicial, but highly relevant piece of evidence in the State of Missouri vs. Emily Usnick, the case of a Lake area mother charged with second degree felony murder of her infant daughter in 2009, will be presented to the jury during trial.

A prejudicial, but highly relevant piece of evidence in the State of Missouri vs. Emily Usnick, the case of a Lake area mother charged with second degree felony murder of her infant daughter in 2009, will be presented to the jury during trial.

On Monday in Johnson County Circuit Court, Judge John O’Malley ruled on five separate motions in limine filed by Missouri Public Defender Jason Emmons and Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey.

The case was moved to the court in Warrensburg on a change of venue. A miscommunication between the circuit court and attorneys caused the motion hearing to be continued from April 24, 2017.

A motion in limine is essentially a hearing by a judge regarding whether certain evidence and/or attorney strategies in regards to witness testimony will be allowed to be presented to the jury during the trial.

The most contested and controversial motion in limine was filed on behalf of the defense to exclude testimony or evidence regarding toxicology reports or blood work results of the fetus purportedly showing 0.43 micrograms/ML of methamphetamine, which the State plans to argue proves the fetus was alive at or near birth and potentially could have been resuscitated.

The defense plans to counter this argument with their own expert witness to bring reasonable doubt as to whether or not the fetus had ever drawn a breathe, considered a central component to the case.

“I agree it’s somewhat prejudicial, but it’s highly relevant,” O’Malley said, before overruling the motion, but partially sustaining an objection by the defense for the prosecution’s intended language during direct and cross-examination.

O’Malley granted two other motion in limines by the defense to exclude any testimony regarding a lung float test, which Winfrey agreed was not reliable and would not be pursued through pathologist testimony as well as the exclusion of “prior bad acts” evidence or testimony.

In regards to the State’s two motions in limine, O’Malley granted the prohibition of the “other person did it” defense, mental state of defendant and reference to punishment of jury sentencing, which Usnick waived on Monday, delegating the responsibility, if found guilty, to the court.

O’Malley overruled the motion to exclude the issuance of a birth or death certificate, which the State admits doesn’t exist due to the circumstances of the alleged crime.

“I don’t see harm any way or the other,” O’Malley said.

The two sides agreed they would refer to the fetus as “Baby Usnick” or “Hannah Usnick” and also submitted sets of jury instructions to be taken under advisement by O’Malley.

Voir dire, or jury questioning, is expected to last two to two and a half hours, followed by opening statements and potential State witnesses on Wednesday. The trial is expected to last until Friday or Monday.

After the State has finished presenting its case, Usnick will decide whether or not she will testify, which cannot be held against her if she chooses not to. The witness rule, barring witnesses from sitting in the courtroom during other witness testimony, has been invoked.

Several charges were filed in Miller County from after a 2009 drug raid at a house on Main Street in St. Elizabeth. Usnick was living at the house at the time with her then 15-year-old-son. Investigators found the body of an infant wrapped in a trash bag inside a plastic container in the trunk of a car parked in the garage.

Five people, including Usnick, were arrested in the raid and she was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance except 35 grams or less of marijuana and felony manufacture/production or attempt to manufacture/production of a controlled substance greater than five grams of marijuana in a residence with a child or within 2,000-feet of a school.

Charges of second degree felony murder, felony endangerment of a child and felony abandonment of a corpse were filed three years later when Usnick was living in Mexico, Mo. The abandonment of a corpse charge was later thrown out by previously-assigned Judge Stan Moore due to passing the statute of limitations.

Usnick is down to one charge in this case, second degree felony murder, as the endangering a child felony charge is not actually identified but is a key component to the State’s attempt to prove the nature of the crime.

A motion to sever this case from the drug charges was granted by Moore before he recused himself in 2016, and that case is still pending the result of the murder trial.

Although endangering a child is not the actual charge, the State will have to prove that the second degree felony murder occurred during the act of endangering the child, which the State plans to argue is evidenced by the lack of medical attention and state of decomposition when discovered.

Last October, O’Malley granted the motion to suppress evidence to all statements made by the defendant from the time she requested an attorney on Feb. 4, 2009 until her then public defender entered an appearance on her behalf on Feb. 17, 2009.

A DNA sample taken by buccal swab on Feb. 5, 2009 and the results of the testing on the sample are admissible products of a proper search warrant, according to a case.net filing.

Usnick’s defense had previously argued that the now former Miller County sheriff violated her constitutional rights by coercing her to make statements and forcing her to cooperate with investigators after invoking her right to an attorney.

The Boone County Medical Examiner’s Officer performed an autopsy on the remains and found the infant was fully developed and viable at the time of birth in 2009, according to court documents.

The examiner’s office believed the infant could have been resuscitated following delivery and also noted that the infant’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and she had methamphetamine in her bloodstream and liver indicating that the child was alive in the hours immediately prior to delivery several weeks prior to the drug bust.

Usnick was identified as the mother of the infant.

Lake Media Editorial Director Joyce L. Miller contributed reporting.