Jury still out in Baby faith trial

Published 9:17 am Friday, August 28, 2015

BEAUMONT — A jury of 11 men and one woman spent two hours deliberating the guilt of Christine Johnson before being sent home for the day on Thursday.

Deliberations will continue at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Judge John Stevens’ courtroom.

Johnson faces two charges of injury to a child and each count includes a subpart.

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The first count is whether she intentionally or knowingly caused the injury to her then 5-week old infant Faith Mason that left her with a broken neck. A subpart to the charge jurors must decide is whether she recklessly caused the severe injury.

The second charge is whether she intentionally or knowingly caused the injury by omission by failing to get the child prompt medical attention. The subpart to the charge is if she recklessly, by omission, caused the severe bodily injury.

Closing arguments began near 3 p.m. with defense attorney Ryan Matsuda acknowledging Baby Faith’s numerous injuries, which include more than 40 broken bones, or fractures some of which were as old as three weeks, as well as brain damage adding it is hard to comprehend.

Faith Mason was born weighing 5 pounds 13 ounces on July 13, 2013 and stayed in the hospital for 10 days because she was slightly premature.

Matsuda painted a verbal picture of the young mother first brought the child to the emergency room July 31, 2013 because of what she thought was a bug bite. Faith was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and sent home.

“She took her child to the ER because she thought something was wrong,” Matsuda said.

The defense attorney pointed out the child’s father, Darrell Mason, who will be tried for the same charges at a later date, was seen holding the tightly swaddled infant — implying the swaddling was a way to keep others from seeing the injuries — and of “acting like he was asleep when Det. Otis visited the home.”

“What did the evidence not show us? Not a single witness saw her hurt the baby,” Matsuda said. “The State presented all this evidence of serious bodily injury. It’s disturbing, I agree.”

Johnson’s lack of emotion during the hospital visit on Aug. 18, 2013 — when a family member coaxed her to bring the infant to the ER because she was “breathing funny” was also addressed.

Matsuda pointed out that Johnson has acted the same way throughout the trial and what’s normal for her isn’t normal for others.

“There are people that said she (Johnson) doesn’t even know to take a bath sometimes, they have to show her how, do her hair, how to shop,” Matsuda said.

The case, he added, is circumstantial and witnesses have shown Johnson is not a violent person.

Prosecutor Randi King led a portion of the State’s closing argument with emotion.

“Faith is our baby. Faith is the baby of all of the citizens of Jefferson County. We have to stand up for her because literally, she cannot stand up,” King said.

King brought jurors down a timeline in Baby Faith’s life. From birth July 13, 2013, to going home July 20. While at the hospital the infant underwent a CAT scan, which showed no abnormalities, and Johnson and Mason underwent a parenting class before she was brought home.

Then, at 9:51 p.m. July 30, 2013, she was diagnosed with a sprained ankle, 10 days after going home.

On Aug. 18, 2013, just after midnight, Baby Faith was brought back to the ER. King placed photos of Faith in front of the jurors as she spoke.

“That’s how she was brought back to the hospital,” King said. “We don’t have any witnesses come I to say they saw it happen. A vicious coward wouldn’t say that they saw this happen.”

King briefly gave a run-down of the child’s injuries adding that Faith’s breathing difficulty was due to broken neck bones experts referred to as “hangman’s fracture” and that a CAT scan showed Faith’s brain had actually shifted in her skull.

Johnson also, King said, failed to answer questions regarding Faith’s injuries while in the ER at Christus Hospital-St. Mary. And in a statement to police Johnson admitted she noticed Faith’s arm was “green and purple” but didn’t bring her in for treatment until the next day.

Prosecutor Pat Knauth then reminded jurors that experts previously testified Baby Faith’s injuries were the worse case of child abuse they had seen.

Strangers such as the nurses and doctors who worked to save the infant’s life love Baby Faith more than her own mother. Knauth also reminded the jurors Baby faith had suffered more than 40 fractures between July 20 and Aug. 18.

“Who had the motive constantly?” Knauth said. “Who provide the trigger, Faith Mason. “

Christine Johnson and Darrell Mason had access to the child and no one else. The infant’s behavior — sleeping, eating, dirty diapers, were what triggered Johnson’s rage. He referred to Johnson’s videotaped statement of being angry the child woke her up early and that she accidently jerked the baby, then added “but I meant to do it because I was mad.”

Johnson faces anywhere from probation to five years to life on the first charge and anywhere from probation to two to 20 years and up to a $10,000 fine on the second charge.

E-mail: mary.meaux@panews.com

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