Sunday, 5 June 2011

SBS: Ohio: David Darst guilty at repeat trial

Ed Gebert : June 3 2011
On Thursday, a jury of eight men and four women accomplished what a jury three months earlier could not do -- reach a verdict in the case against David A. Darst. The first trial ended when jurors could not agree on whether or not the Van Wert man caused major injuries to his then nine-week-old son back in April of 2010. This time after more than six hours of deliberations, the 12 on the panel reached a guilty verdict against Darst on the charge of second-degree felony child endangering.
"I'm happy," stated Assistant Van Wert County Prosecutor Eva Yarger after the verdict was read. "I think this was the right verdict, and I think justice was served. I believed in this case, which is why I tried it again."
The prosecution accused Darst of causing a serious injury to the infant when he watched the baby alone on April 22, 2010. Young Logan Darst was finally taken to the Van Wert County Hospital emergency room two days later when he was apparently having some sort of seizures. The baby was subsequently transferred to Dayton Children's Hospital where medical personnel noticed two subdural hematomas, or brain bleeds. The child was also diagnosed with retinal hemorrhages in both eyes and a brain injury from lack of oxygen. The doctors in Dayton gave the case a high probability of being Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).
In his defense, Darst claimed that the only thing that happened to his son on the 22nd was that the child had slipped from his grasp while on the arm of an upholstered chair. Darst stated that he managed to trap the baby against the arm of the chair so he would not fall, causing three small bruises on the infant's chest. These bruises were not enough to cause injuries common to SBS. On the witness stand, Darst even admitted that the baby's head did not hit the arm of the chair or the floor during that incident.
While the prosecution pointed to Darst as the child's caretaker when the brain injuries occurred, both Darst and his wife claimed the real damage was done the next evening while the couple was at work and Logan was being watched by relatives. However, statements made to investigators placed a big change in the baby's behavior after the child was left with his father. In testimony, both parents made the claim that the baby was actually fine during that day and that earlier statements were incorrect.
The baby was dismissed from Dayton Children's Hospital on April 28, 2010 into foster care. In August, he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor near his spinal cord. Logan Darst died of cancer in January at the age of 11 months. Doctors found there was no correlation between the SBS injuries and the cancer.
One of the toughest parts of the trial for jury members was wading through the testimony from doctors involved in the case. Yarger said she was deliberate about making sure that evidence was presented clearly in the retrial. "I think I approached the medical testimony differently," she disclosed. "I tried to make it simpler and on a more understandable level. I've dealt with these things and been to seminars and been to training and I forget that ordinary people may not 'get it' the first time."
The major chore for jurors was to figure out who to believe when conflicting testimony was given. While other relatives gave one side of the story, the Darsts frequently denied that version, offering their own and even calling the others 'liars' when confronted by the differing stories. As for Yarger, she said simply that the decision to retry the case after the March mistrial was because she knew which side to believe.
"I believed [Darst] did it, and I felt it was important to at least try again," she declared." I honestly, in my heart, knew he did it... I think it is justice for Logan. I think it's important in the future. If the defendant has any other children, this is now on his record. That was our concern all along, any future children, because his wife believed him. If they were going to have more children, that was always going to be a concern."
Judge Sumner Walters presided over the three-day trial in Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas. With the conviction, Darst now faces a June 30 sentencing hearing. He faces from two to eight years in prison and a maximum $15,000 fine.

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