Deliberations start in child abuse casePublished 8:29pm Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Testimony from former Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigator Jamie Cahoon Overton, a pediatrician specializing in child injury and the victim’s babysitter rounded out the second day of a felonious child abuse trial in Beaufort County Superior Court Tuesday.
Jenny Rose Jordan is accused of abusing one of her three children, a case stemming from a March 2008 incident in which the child was hospitalized with severe blackening and swelling around both eyes. It was an injury that pediatrician Dr. Elaine Cabinum-Foeller said was “not consistent with running and falling.”
“In my experience, I’ve never seen bruising on a child (like that) before or since, on a child of his age and development,” Cabinum-Foeller testified. “I believe it was inflicted.”
The jury will decide today whether Jordan was responsible for her child’s injuries.
On March 12, 2008, EMTs were called to a Chocowinity home where Jordan’s 23-month-old son was staying with Jordan’s boyfriend at the time, James Dugan. The child was unresponsive and had extensive bruising and swelling around both eyes. The child was taken to Beaufort County Hospital, then airlifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital where he was admitted into I.C.U. Dugan testified Monday that he lied during his initial statement to sheriff’s office investigators, but told the truth in a second statement made to law enforcement eight months after the incident — after he and Jordan had broken up. In the second statement, Dugan said he’d witnessed Jordan beating her son.
During Tuesday’s closing arguments, both prosecution and defense addressed the credibility of the only witness to the child’s abuse: Dugan. On the stand on Monday, Dugan admitted to years of drug abuse, including during the time when he was dating Jordan. He also admitted to a long criminal history.
“What happens when a crime occurs and the only witness to the crime is a terrible person himself?” Assistant District Attorney Chad Stoop asked the jury during the prosecution’s closing arguments.
Stoop summed up the state’s evidence, asking the jury to look at the timeline that whittled down potential abusers to Jordan. He pointed out that Jordan never attempted to give any explanation as to how the child’s injuries occurred, summing up the state’s case by telling the jury, “When this injury occurred, the defendant is the only one who had the opportunity to commit this kind of injury to (the child).”
Jordan’s defense attorney, Don Stroud, stressed the importance of the role of the jurors during his closing remarks, saying that any person in any courtroom in the country is presumed innocent — it’s only the jury’s unanimous verdict that can change that.
“Are you going to send this mama to prison for up to 59 months based on this drug addict’s testimony?” Stroud asked.
Stroud asked the jury if any one of them would be willing to hand a $25 check and a deposit slip over to Dugan and send him to the bank, getting a few laughs from the jurors’ box.
“If you’re not going to trust him with $25, how are you going to trust him to send her to jail for 59 months?” he asked.
Stroud said Jordan had been more than cooperative during the investigation into the incident and while she could have, she never attempted to blame anyone else for the child’s injuries because she didn’t know how they were sustained.
“She’s just like the 13 of you and Jamie Cahoon Overton — she doesn’t know,” Stroud said. “I’m not asking you to like Jenny. I’m not asking you whether she’s a good mother. If you believe she did it, well, then you find her guilty and Judge Blount will take care of her. … I caution you, that won’t make any of y’all feel good. Because you would be doing more harm to that child by convicting the mother when she’s not guilty.”
Stroud made the point Monday that he had advised Jordan of a plea arrangement with the state offering to reduce the charge against her to misdemeanor child abuse. Jordan demanded a trial.
The jury will begin their deliberations this morning.