HS man gets life in prison

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - STEVEN MROSS

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

Cir­cuit Court.

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.”

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