Woman acquitted of murder, convicted of neglect
Jury recommends life for not getting help for injured toddler
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.