HS man gets life in prison
A Hot Springs man originally charged with capital murder for the 2015 death of his
3-month-old son was sentenced to life in prison Friday after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in Garland County
James Antonio-Carlos Page,
38, who has remained in custody in lieu of $1 million bond since his arrest Nov. 6, 2015, was set to stand trial next week on the capital murder charge and prosecutors had indicated they planned to seek the death penalty, but he opted to plead guilty to the lesser charge and
will spend the rest of his life in prison.
“I spoke with the victim’s mother and she wanted him to have a life sentence,” Deputy Prosecutor Kara Petro said Friday. “She never wanted him to get out of prison. There is no difference between life for capital or life for murder first.
“A death penalty case that has a death sentence granted has many years of numerous appeals and other post-conviction remedies. He won’t be able to appeal his plea of life, therefore, it won’t continue for years keeping the victim’s mother from closure,” she said.
Petro said the plea deal also saved the victim’s mother and other family members from having to endure a long trial. “The last death penalty case I did lasted five days,” she said.
Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Lawrence said Friday that Page had no significant prior criminal history, which could have been a factor at trial. “He had one prior conviction from another state that we couldn’t substantiate or prove even though we did everything possible to locate it so we couldn’t have used it at trial,” she said.
Page was initially charged with first-degree domestic battery at the time of his arrest, but the charge was upgraded to capital murder two days later after the victim, Zayden Page, died at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
A motion for Page to undergo a mental examination was filed Feb. 10, 2016, and the examination was completed on May 26, 2016, at the Arkansas State Hospital. The mental evaluation report was sealed as part of an order limiting pretrial publicity, but Page was found to be fit to proceed at a hearing on June 20, 2016.
Clay Janske, Page’s attorney, said in the last two weeks, after talking with the doctors at Children’s and the medical examiner, “it became clear to us (Page) was in bad trouble. The best-case scenario was to get life in prison. There was no reason to roll the dice since there was a real strong chance of him getting the death penalty with the evidence against him.”
According to the affidavit, on Nov. 6, 2015, around 7:30 p.m., Dr. Karen Farst, an emergency room physician at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, notified Hot Springs police about a 3-month-old male brought into the ER with injuries that included a burn around his neck, a broken collarbone, rib fractures and multiple bruises to his head and face.
Farst stated the victim had been in the custody of his father, identified as Page, all day and that Page had said the injuries were due to a fall. Farst stated in her opinion it was impossible that the injuries were sustained from a fall.
According to hospital personnel, at one point Page stated he was leaving the hospital and fleeing back to his home state of Alabama. At the time of his arrest, he listed an Alabama address.
In his statement to police, Page said he had taken his fiancee to work earlier that morning and arrived back at the residence around 10:30 a.m. He said the baby was crying and continued to cry, so Page picked him up from his car seat and “shook him violently.”
After some time, when the baby continued crying, he said he threw the victim into his car seat and that the victim continued to cry after being thrown.
The affidavit notes Page is around 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and was standing up holding the victim when he threw him into the car seat, which was located on the floor.
Page admitted that after about 30 minutes he noticed the victim was not breathing and that he took him to the hospital at that point. The victim was initially taken to CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs and then airlifted to Children’s.
Petro said while Page had admitted to causing the injuries “there is no way he told the whole story,” noting he was trying to minimize his guilt by claiming he shook him and threw him into a car seat. “The injuries are not consistent with that story. He had to have done more to the baby to cause those injuries.”
Janske said it came out there was evidence of pre-existing injuries to the child from back in the past “and we felt like the prosecution would have pointed the finger at him at trial. It was just too big a risk for him to take in the hopes of maybe getting a term of years which likely would have been lengthy.”
He said one also had to consider the difference in the quality of life between being on death row and in the general population, noting on death row “you get one hour out of your cell a day and no contact with other prisoners.”
Janske said when he first took the case two years ago he “never would have thought” Page could get the death penalty since Garland County had not sentenced anyone to death in ages. “But then they’ve handed down two death sentences just in the last two years,” he said.
“I originally thought it was just a case of someone who got frustrated with a baby that was sick a lot and reacted in a terrible manner. But when the evidence came out about the prior injuries that changed my whole outlook on the case.”
Janske said it was “a hard decision” for Page, but, “I think he made the right decision. He was very accepting of it. His change of plea hearing went as smoothly as could be which is unusual when someone is accepting a life sentence.”