Lawyer: Cut missing boy's mom's bail

Zinah Jennings, 22, mother of missing toddler Amir Jennings, walks by her attorney, Hemphill Pride II (left), after Monday's hearing in the Richland County courthouse.

COLUMBIA -- Police are violating the constitutional rights of the mother of a missing South Carolina toddler by opposing her release on bail, the woman's attorney argued in court Monday.

"What they want her to do is talk. And if a person is charged with a criminal offense, they've got a right to do what? To remain silent," Hemphill Pride II said. "You can't punish them for that."

A judge said he would rule later on Pride's request to reduce the $150,000 bond for his client, Zinah Jennings. The 22-year-old was jailed a month ago and charged with cruelty to children after police said she lied about her son's whereabouts, and Pride said police are opposing his request because his client hasn't told them where her son is.

Amir Jennings was 18 months old when family members said they last saw him around Thanksgiving. Her mother reported Jennings missing several weeks later, telling police she thought her daughter and grandson were in Atlanta but that she was receiving evasive answers when she asked about Amir.

Speaking to police after a Dec. 24 car wreck, Jennings first said she didn't have children and then said her son was with relatives and friends in cities from Atlanta to Charlotte.

Investigators said they chased down Jennings' stories but arrested her after several dead ends.

State police officers are analyzing stains on blankets and clothing removed from Jennings' car to determine if they are blood.

Last week, hundreds of local, state and federal law officers used cadaver dogs to search a sprawling rural area but found no sign of the boy.

On Monday, Pride said his client -- who was evaluated at a mental hospital for more than a week -- is taking Risperdal, which is used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia.

Pride also said Jennings is pregnant and should be released from jail so she can receive prenatal care, but a prosecutor said Jennings and her unborn baby are safer in jail.

"It's apparent she has been exercising very self-destructive behavior," Assistant Solicitor Dolly Justice Garfield said.

Jennings was arrested on prostitution and drug charges in Georgia shortly before her son disappeared, accused of offering sex to an undercover officer.

Jennings had been staying with a half-sister in the Atlanta area for three weeks before her Nov. 9 arrest.

On the day Jennings was arrested, her half-sister reported her missing, telling police that she had left her home and suffered from "schizophrenic tendencies" that had not been diagnosed.

Jocelyn Jennings Nelson has also said her headstrong daughter had been depressed since the birth of her son.

Pride would not say how far along Jennings is in her pregnancy or if he knows who fathered the child. Jennings wore a black, two-piece jail uniform and tennis shoes and did not speak at Monday's hearing.