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Mich. Supreme Court agrees to hear verbal arguments in Leo Ackley case

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A powerful group that tries to prove the innocence of people who they feel have been wrongfully convicted is going to bat for a convicted murderer accused of killing a West Michigan toddler, and now the Michigan Supreme Court is stepping in as well.

The case surrounds the death of 3-year-old Baylee Stenman, who was killed four years ago. A jury says her mother's boyfriend, Leo Ackley was behind the act.

But now, there's a strong push for a new trial.

"I love Baylee very much," Ackley said. "I'm innocent. I'll prove I'm innocent."

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in March in Ackley's case.

His new lawyer, Andrew Rodenhouse, claims his trial attorney was ineffective, failing to call experts on the theory that Baylee died from an accidental fall.

"Trial counsel never contacted any of these people; I mean, he was given specific names on who to call. He never called. I mean, he never picked up the phone," said Rodenhouse.

Ackley says Baylee fell out of bed, but doctors say she took a blow to the head that was much more severe.

Now, the Innocence Project, based in Ann Arbor, has filed a brief on behalf of Ackley.

According to the group, which carries great weight in the court system, state experts in the case gave incorrect testimony, which would have been rebutted by others.

They also contend that doctors testified that a fall could not have caused Baylee's injuries. The group claims that is false.

"I believe Leo is innocent. I've worked on these cases in the past; I believe Leo to be innocent." Rodenhouse said.

The Innocence Project is quoting all sorts of scientific evidence in the brief.

The group receives thousands of applications from those who claim they have been wrongly convicted, but they only select a few cases.

"Not a single witness ever testified in court that they ever witnessed Leo abuse Baylee," Rodenhouse said. "Not a single one."

Newschannel 3 reached out to a number of other people Thursday night, including Baylee's mother and father, and also the Calhoun County Prosecutor.

At this point, no one has returned our calls.

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