Saturday, 14 May 2011

SBS: Ohio: John Wilbert Jones convicted of murder

Ed Meyer :
A Summit County jury has convicted an 18-year-old Akron man of one count of murder and one count of child endangering in the 2010 death of his infant daughter, Jada Ruiz Jones.
After 12 1/2 hours of jury deliberations over two days, Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove announced the verdicts Tuesday evening.
John Wilbert Jones, the defendant, was leaning over the defense table, his head down, as the verdicts were read at 6:20 p.m.
Moments later, he raised his head with tears running from his eyes, but he said nothing.
Jones is scheduled to be sentenced, facing the maximum penalty of life in prison, at 8:15 a.m. Thursday.
There was a split decision in the six-count indictment.
Jones was found not guilty of the first count of murder as a proximate result of committing or attempting to commit felonious assault. He also was found not guilty of a separate charge of felonious assault in connection with Jada's injuries.
Minutes after the verdicts were read, a sister of Jones bolted the courtroom from her seat in the front row of the public gallery and could be heard shouting: ''I swear to God, I'm going to kill that bitch,'' an apparent reference to Deja Ruiz, Jada's mother.
Ruiz was seated in the third row of the gallery and declined to comment on the case or the outburst.
''They've been threatening like that the whole time,'' an uncle of Ruiz's, Jody Tucker, of Akron, said afterward.
Outside of court, Tucker spoke for his niece and other members of the family, saying he was relieved by the verdict.
''God works in his way,'' Tucker said. ''If he would have just confessed in the beginning,'' he added, referring to John Jones, ''it might have been a little easier for him.''
Tucker said the case put the family ''through hell and back''' because of defense claims that Ruiz inflicted the fatal injuries on Jada.
The lead government counsel, Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Teri Burnside, told the panel in Monday's closing arguments that Jada, who was 6 months old, suffered irreversible brain injuries at the hands of her father.
Jada was pronounced dead July 16 at Akron Children's Hospital. She never regained consciousness over four months.
Burnside said Jada was a victim of shaken baby syndrome, and Jones was the perpetrator.
''He did what we know you should never do with a little baby. He shakes and shakes that baby and she finally stops crying, but she never cries again,'' Burnside told jurors.
The incident occurred on the morning of March 19, 2010, at the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority apartment of Deja Ruiz, who was Jones' former girlfriend.
He had spent the night there and was caring for Jada, her twin sister, Jazmine, and their 2-year-old brother after Ruiz, then 19, left to catch a bus for school at 8:05 a.m.
 Jones made the 911 call, reporting that Jada was not breathing, at 9:44 a.m.
The criminal case began in Summit County Juvenile Court last spring following Jones' March 31 arrest, when he was 17.
He was charged later as an adult with two counts of murder, two counts of felonious assault in connection with the injuries to Jada and her twin, Jazmine, and additional counts of felony child endangering in connection with the twins.
The jury found Jones not guilty of both charges related to Jazmine.
Defense attorney Joseph F. Gorman said he was disappointed by the verdicts but respected the process.
''I'm not sure how you arrive at that decision,'' Gorman said. ''In my mind, he either committed these acts against the baby, or he didn't.
''I can't quite wrap my mind around the verdict, but once again, you have to respect it. John will have another day in court with an appeal, and we'll hope for the best in that regard.''
Gorman spent his full allotment of time in court Monday, 45 minutes, on his closing argument.
A good deal of it was spent informing jurors about the legal definition of the prosecution's task in the U.S. criminal justice system — proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
''Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof of such character,'' Gorman told the panel, ''that an ordinary person would be willing to rely and act upon it in the most important of his or her own affairs.''
He then provided a compelling example from this case.
Jada's doctors, in their decision to remove the child from life support after four months, ''had to be convinced, before they pull the plug, that there's no coming back, that Jada's never going to come back,'' Gorman said. ''That, God forbid, in our own lives, is a decision we might have to make with one of our family members: Should we pull the plug? That's a terrible, heavy decision,'' Gorman said.
If that type of proof does not exist, he told the jury, the verdict must be not guilty.
One of Gorman's principal arguments that Jones' guilt was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt was the acknowledgment by the lead Akron police detective, Gary Shadie, that Ruiz was also initially a suspect.
However, Gorman pointed out, there were no written reports from what were believed to be the earliest interviews of Ruiz by the juvenile detective unit.
Gorman told the jury no report exists from the first interview of Ruiz, believed to be at the hospital on the day of the incident. Shadie testified that he thought another detective was supposed to have done it, but to this day is not certain that it ever was.
Ruiz also testified that she and her mother went to Akron police headquarters for an interview one or two days after the incident, but no report was ever produced by the detective who did that interview either, Gorman said.
''Shocking,'' he told the jury, using only that word to describe the possible police oversights.
A seventh count in the indictment, for felony child endangering, was dismissed by prosecution motion before the trial began.

Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or

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