Saturday, 16 October 2010

SBS: Merrifield, West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Supreme Court has refused to review the case of a Putnam County man who was convicted two years ago of sexually abusing and killing his then-girlfriend's 2-year-old son.
Michael Kent Merrifield, 34, is serving a life sentence without parole for the 2005 slaying.
Merrifield's lawyer, Lonnie Simmons, appealed Merrifield's conviction to the Supreme Court, saying the evidence used to convict Merrifield was insufficient.
The boy, Logan Goodall was sick the day of his death. His mother, Pepper Eren, testified in 2008 that he was lethargic and wouldn't eat. Eren still went to work, and left her son with Merrifield. The boy died 40 minutes later.
After an autopsy, state Medical Examiner James Kaplan determined that the boy died from a head injury consistent with shaken-baby syndrome and a laceration to his pancreas, which caused internal bleeding.
Prosecutors argued that Merrifield "intentionally and maliciously refused to seek help" for the sick child, resulting in his death, according to the appeal. Simmons argued that since the state medical examiner testified that there was only a possibility that prompt medical care could have prevented the boy from dying, that the charges should have been dropped.
"In other words, it's not as if there's a snap shot," Simmons said Thursday. "Here's the injury at this point, here's who did it'"
Simmons argues that it's not clear that the boy died because of injuries sustained after the 40 minutes Eren left for work. He cites several findings from Kaplan who, during the autopsy, lists several days-old injuries that could have caused the boys death.
The older injuries could have been inflicted by anyone other than Merrifield, Simmons said. Prosecutors would have been forced to provide new evidence linking Merrifield to those injuries.
"To be fair, from the state's perspective, there's no question that there was some interaction," Simmons said, adding that Merrifield did admit to shaking the child, "but it doesn't answer the causation problem about lack of medical care causing the death.
Simmons also said the case should have been tried in a different jurisdiction, since public outcry and media coverage might have swayed the jury to find his client guilty.
Gazette file photo
Michael Kent Merifield

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