Prosecutor: Injuries show pattern of child abuse
DENVER ” An 11-week-old boy suffered three distinct injuries at the hands of his father, proof that the child died as a result of abuse and not metabolic disease as claimed by the defense, a prosecutor said Thursday.
A defense attorney fired back that the prosecution was fantasizing about what happened without any evidence or witnesses to support it.
Alex Midyette, 29, is accused of child abuse in the March 2006 death of his son, Jason, who prosecutors said suffered 37 broken bones. Midyette could face up to 48 years in prison if convicted. Jurors begin deliberating Friday.
In closing arguments, Boulder Chief Deputy District Attorney Ken Kupfner described for the jury how evidence presented during nearly five weeks of testimony portrayed a pattern of abuse.
“Pummeling. Hitting all over his body. That’s not what this case is about,” Kupfner said, arguing that Jason’s injuries may not have been intentional but were done out of frustration by a first-time parent. “This case is about twisting, pulling the legs of a child. Squeezing the feet, the hands, the ribs of a young child.”
Kupfner said Jason had a tear on a membrane that attached his lip to his gum, which he called a classic sign of child abuse; a bruise on his left temple that corresponded to brain injuries; and a broken skull.
Defense attorney Paul McCormick said the allegation of a torn membrane was wrong because an autopsy simply said there was no membrane there.
“We may never know exactly what happened to Jason. We think he had metabolic disease. The prosecution has not proved child abuse,” McCormick said.
During trial, prosecutors presented doctors who described Jason’s injuries and witnesses who testified that Midyette mishandled his young son, including dropping him onto his wife’s lap.
Midyette’s wife, Molly Midyette, was convicted of child abuse in 2007 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Prosecutors said she didn’t seek help for her son in time.
The defense claims the Midyettes were loving parents who took their child to doctors five times during his 76 days of life. They were concerned Jason was not gaining enough weight after being born a week early, attorneys say.
The defense also argued the Midyettes didn’t know the extent of Jason’s injuries because he was a quiet child whose disease became apparent on Feb. 24, 2006, the day he slipped into a coma. Doctors called by the defense had testified that some of the fractures were really bone abnormalities indicative of a metabolic disease.
McCormick added Jason suffered from a disease destroying his brain.
“Jason wasn’t meant to live. He’s losing brain matter each day and that’s sad. Whenever a baby dies we want to point the finger at someone,” McCormick said.
Kupfner showed jurors pictures of Jason wrapped tightly in blankets in a carrier that Kupfner likened to a “cast” designed to immobilize the baby so he wouldn’t fuss.
“When you didn’t have him swaddled and you didn’t have the fractures immobilized, he cried because he was in a lot of pain,” Kupfner contended. He said Alex Midyette didn’t let others hold Jason because he knew about the fractures.
Kupfner said the torn membrane was likely caused by jamming a bottle into Jason’s mouth. He argued Alex Midyette caused the bruise to the head and that the skull fracture happened during a diaper change.
Midyette, Kupfner alleged, banged Jason’s head at least three times and allowed him to heal before taking him to a pediatrician.
Kupfner asked jurors to use common sense about Jason’s injuries, likening the defense’s case to a fly fisherman muddying the waters in a stream.
“Some unnamed, rare, unknown metabolic disease is not reasonable doubt, it’s muddying the water,” he said. “Step back and let the water clear.”
“We don’t need to prove he had metabolic disease,” McCormick countered. “If it makes you hesitate, then the verdict has to be not guilty.”
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