Columbia — Bloodstains found on a blanket in Zinah Jennings’ car trunk belong to her missing son, police said during a Monday court hearing.
But a judge must decide whether the blanket can be presented as evidence in her trial, set for late August.
Hemphill Pride II, Jennings’ defense attorney, asked Monday that the bloodstained blanket be barred from the trial because it would prejudice a jury in deciding whether Jennings should be convicted of unlawful conduct toward a child.
She has not been charged with killing her toddler son, Amir, but the blanket would imply that, Pride said.
“I would never overcome that,” Pride said. “Their minds would be set on cadaver dogs and the blood on the blanket in the back of the car.”
Judge Knox McMahon said he did not have enough information Monday to rule on the motion but said he would conduct a closed hearing at a later date.
Arguments over the blanket were part of a daylong, pretrial hearing in which Pride asked the judge to suppress search warrants and statements Jennings made to police during their investigation. He also requested that the judge bar television cameras from the trial.
Jennings is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 27.
She was charged in December with unlawful conduct toward a child after she refused to tell Columbia Police Department investigators what happened to her son. Amir was last seen Dec. 6 when he was 18 months old, according to Monday’s court testimony.
Jennings is expected to give birth to a second child in September, Pride said. She wore brown dress slacks and an off-white maternity blouse during Monday’s hearing after Pride requested that she be allowed to wear street clothes in court rather than a jail-issued jumpsuit.
Jennings entered the courtroom wearing handcuffs and leg shackles, but those were removed with Knox’s approval.
Knox denied Pride’s request to suppress Jennings’s statements to police or the search warrants. In those statements, Jennings denied having a child and then at least twice misled police as to his whereabouts.
Columbia police received at least 14 search warrants as they tried to find Amir, according to Monday’s testimony.
Police investigator Colin Bailey said he searched Jennings’ Dodge Neon car, her bedroom at her mother’s house, the yard and sheds at the house. They were looking for cellphone records, receipts, notes or any other evidence that could help police retrace Jennings’ travels before her son went missing.
Cadaver dogs indicated they smelled a human body inside the car’s back seat and trunk, Bailey said. He said he found a light-blue baby blanket and tests indicated the bloodstains on it were from Amir.
McMahon said he was reluctant to ban television coverage of the trial but would request a larger-than-usual jury pool and would accept an expanded list of questions that attorneys may ask potential jurors during the selection process.