Friday, 24 June 2011

SBS: Brian Terrell Walker sentenced 5 years for involuntary manslaughter

Nancy Drury Duncan : June 15 2011
ACCOMAC -- After almost eight hours of deliberations over the course of two days, a jury of nine women and three men found the man charged with the murder of his girlfriend's baby guilty of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Brian Terrell Walker, 25, of Northampton County appeared to wipe away tears after the verdict was read. A group of his friends and family attending the trial wept openly after hearing the jury's decision.
Later Friday, the jury recommended Walker spend five years in prison. A judge will formally sentence him later.
Brian Terrell Walker
Walker was arrested over a year ago and charged with the child's murder after police concluded that he beat and shook 11-month-old Isaiah Russell, causing his death.
In March 2010, Walker was on vacation from his job at Perdue and agreed to stay home with Jessica Russell's baby and 2-year-old daughter while she went to work, saving her the cost of a week of day care.
Russell testified on the witness stand that she got up at around six that morning, fixed eggs and hot dogs for herself and Walker and cereal for her daughters. She gave Isaiah a bottle and changed his diaper, she said.
Russell described everything that happened that morning as "normal routine." Her son was fine when she left, she told the court.
She said she took her 9-year-old daughter to the bus, went to work and sent a text message to Walker at about 9 a.m. telling him to give the baby, who had a cold, a dose of Tylenol. She said she had no more contact with him or her children until she received word from the Human Resources office at Perdue at about 2:45 that afternoon that Isaiah was being rushed by ambulance to the emergency room.
Defense attorney Benjamin Hamlet admitted that his client was there with the baby, and said Walker bathed and fed both children later in the morning and then took a nap while the children slept.
He said Walker awoke sometime before 2:15 to find the 2-year-old hitting him with her fists, telling him to wake up, saying that the baby was not breathing right. Hamlet described his client as, "an extremely deep sleeper."
He said Walker found the baby on his back on the floor making gurgling sounds. He said Walker grabbed the baby and ran to a neighbor's house to use the telephone because he had no way to call 911. After finding no one home at the first house, he went to the home of another neighbor, Herman Ayres Jr.
Ayres testified that Walker had come to his house carrying the lifeless baby, called 911 and proceeded to give the baby CPR as instructed by a 911 dispatcher. An ambulance quickly arrived and took the child to Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital. Walker did not go, he said, because he had the 2-year-old girl to look after.
Emergency room physician Dr. Harry Lustig told the court that the baby arrived in critical condition with severe head injuries and could not breathe on his own. He ordered the child transported to Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk.
Dr. Verena Wyville, a child abuse specialist at that hospital, examined Isaiah, and said he had three skull fractures, numerous bruises and abrasions, a bloody mouth resulting from a torn frenulum and was also a victim of "shaken baby syndrome."
Wyville testified that the baby weighed only 16 pounds and suffered also from "nutritional neglect." Isaiah never again breathed unassisted or regained consciousness. Two days later he was declared brain dead and removed from life support.
Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Elizabeth Kinnison performed the autopsy. She described "blunt force head injuries" as the cause of death. She told the court in graphic detail what shaking a baby can do. It causes the brain to be thrown loosely around the inside of the skull, causing bleeding, swelling and finally, brain death, she said.
She said she noted many injuries on the outside of the body as well. She described and showed the jury photo after photo from the autopsy depicting injuries to Isaiah's arm and leg, a laceration of the frenulum which attaches the upper lip to the gum, marks from blows behind his ears and three skull fractures.
She told the court that his front teeth were loose. Kinnison testimony was that it would take considerable force to cause those kind of injuries.
In her testimony, the child's mother said Walker had always been good with her children; in fact, he treated them better than his own two children, she said. After the killing, she admitted she continued to send text messages to Walker telling him she loved him.
Russell told the court she took Isaiah to meet the man she believed to be his biological father for the first time the night before he was attacked. She said the man was concerned that the child had a cold and went to Dollar General and bought Tylenol and an ointment for his chapped cheeks.
She did not tell Walker about that visit but did say that she had received a message from the man wanting to see his son. Walker was not happy about that. She said he went to bed and turned away from her, which was unusual, she said.
The defense offered several explanations as to what could have occurred to the baby. He suggested that his mother could have beaten him before she left for work that morning, or that the 2-year-old could have tried to get him out of his crib and dropped him, or that a stranger could have come into the house and brutally beaten the child while Walker slept unaware.
He produced a copy of a Facebook page, supposedly posted by Russell, saying that she had set Walker up and framed him for the crime. She said the page and postings were not hers. She described to the court how simple it would be to set up a page in another person's name and said there was great animosity between her family and the family and friends of Walker. She said she suspected they had done it.
The Commonwealth showed Isaiah's small crib to the jury. It was only three feet high, said Assistant Commonwealth's attorney Matthew Brenner. "Based on the doctors' testimony, the injuries could have only come through violence," he said. He called it "preposterous" that someone would break into the house and brutally beat the baby while Walker slept.
He disputed also the defense's suggestion that the child's mother did it to collect on a life insurance policy. He said she had a $5,000 policy on the child but said she only received half of that because Isaiah had not yet reached his first birthday. "And that whole amount went to Cooper and Humbles," a local funeral company, Russell testified.
In his closing argument, Brenner admitted his case was circumstantial, but said was based on opportunity and medical testimony. "It is clear that an adult created these injuries, with "extreme, malicious, violent force," he said. "We know there was shaking because that is the only way these injuries occur."
After hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The jury then heard arguments relating to his sentencing. Brenner told the jury of Walker's 16 prior convictions, including brandishing a firearm and assault.
The defense put Walker's mother on the stand, who described her son as a loving father to his two young children and a "hard worker."
Hamlet made a motion asking the court to set aside the jury's verdict based on insufficient evidence. Circuit Judge Stephen C. Mahan said he would take the motion under advisement and rule on it at a later time.

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