Woman ac­quit­ted of mur­der, con­victed of ne­glect

Jury rec­om­mends life for not get­ting help for in­jured tod­dler

Tulsa World - - Front Page - By Sa­man­tha Vi­cent Sa­man­tha Vi­cent 918-581-8321 sa­man­tha.vi­cent @tul­saworld.com Twit­ter: @saman­thav­i­cent

De­spite ac­quit­ting a Tulsa woman of child abuse mur­der over the beat­ing of a 2-year-old boy, ju­rors on Fri­day rec­om­mended that she spend life in prison for ne­glect­ing to take ac­tion to save his life.

The de­fense team for Do­minick Smith, 33, ar­gued Fri­day that her


then-boyfriend, Johnny Earl Jones, was re­spon­si­ble for the death of King Owens on March 21, 2017. But As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney An­drea Brown, in ask­ing for a life sen­tence, said she thought Smith in­flicted the in­juries to King that, com­bined with her lack of ef­fort to seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion, caused his death.

She pointed to Smith's tes­ti­mony re­gard­ing the cir­cum­stances of her 2010 child abuse con­vic­tion in Mis­sis­sippi as proof that she knew bet­ter than to take out her anger and frus­tra­tion on chil­dren.

“Can you imag­ine watch­ing that baby suf­fer for even a minute and not do some­thing about it?” Brown asked the jury dur­ing her clos­ing ar­gu­ment, telling the group King suf­fered “for hours” be­fore Smith fi­nally “dumped him” at Hill­crest Med­i­cal Cen­ter with a blan­ket cov­er­ing his face. The child was trans­ported from there to Saint Fran­cis Hos­pi­tal, where he later died.

Brown said ev­i­dence in the trial in­di­cated that Smith went to a pawn shop and a con­ve­nience store while King was dy­ing in her res­i­dence, which is proof that she “failed King in ev­ery pos­si­ble way.” Smith, ac­cord­ing to po­lice, also ad­mit­ted try­ing to se­date King with NyQuil.

Med­i­cal staff who treated King said he was un­able to breathe due to a com­bi­na­tion of brain trauma, bro­ken ribs and a skull frac­ture. He also had reti­nal hem­or­rhag­ing and bruises on mul­ti­ple parts of his body.

Smith and Jones be­gan su­per­vis­ing King about three weeks be­fore his death af­ter King's mother, Keyshawn Brown, left him in their care.

A dif­fer­ent jury found Jones guilty of child ne­glect in April 2018, and Dis­trict Judge Wil­liam LaFor­tune in Au­gust up­held the jury's 40-year sen­tence rec­om­men­da­tion. Brown faces the same charge and will face a jury in April.

As­sis­tant Pub­lic De­fender Richard Koller said Jones, who was sig­nif­i­cantly taller and larger than Smith, was the only per­son who had the strength needed to in­jure King so se­verely. Koller said the state “guessed at” who King's killer was by mak­ing Smith the only per­son fac­ing a mur­der charge.

He told the jury Jones ex­pressed re­luc­tance to go to the hos­pi­tal be­cause he knew he would have to an­swer ques­tions about what could have hap­pened to King.

“Then he pro­ceeds to lie (to po­lice) over and over and over again,” Koller said of Jones. How­ever, Brown, the pros­e­cu­tor, coun­tered that there wasn't ev­i­dence to sup­port Jones be­ing the boy's at­tacker.

She said Smith told po­lice that she shook, hit, dropped and whipped King ap­par­ently be­cause he wouldn't stop cry­ing.

Koller con­tended that Smith's four po­lice in­ter­views show she ad­mit­ted wrong­do­ing in us­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in the past but said that fact doesn't make her a mur­derer.

In her tes­ti­mony Fri­day evening, Smith de­nied ly­ing to po­lice dur­ing those in­ter­views. But un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, she con­ceded that she told mul­ti­ple sto­ries about her previous con­vic­tion and about how she re­sponded to King's phys­i­cal state.

LaFor­tune will sen­tence her Nov. 16.

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