RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina appeals court has ruled that a man who admitted abusing and killing his 10-month-old stepdaughter in a drunken rage should have a new trial on his first-degree murder conviction.
In a 2-1 opinion issued Tuesday, the court said Joshua Stepp should have a new trial on his first-degree murder conviction from the 2009 death. The split decision means prosecutors can appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
A key factor in Stepp's conviction was evidence that the girl was sexually abused. However, Stepp's attorneys said he should have been convicted of second-degree murder because those injuries occurred when the man cleaned her during a diaper change.
The judges wrote that defense attorneys should have been allowed to tell the jury those injuries occurred because cleaning a child while changing a diaper is "accepted medical practice."