Dad LARRY JOE BARTON JR. admitted that he threw (er, "tossed") his 3-month-old son onto a couch for crying, but he didn't "violently" shake the baby, no sir.
The jury didn't buy the hair-splitting distinction, and found him guilty of assault anyway.
Point Marion father found guilty of assault on 3-month-old
By Liz Zemba
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Last updated: 6:38 am
A Fayette County man on Wednesday testified he tossed his 3-month-old son onto a couch when the child would not stop crying, but he denied allegations that he violently shook the baby.
"I admitted to tossing my son on the couch, because I did," testified Larry Joe Barton Jr. during the second day of his trial on assault charges. "I think every parent has."
Jurors rejected Barton's claim that the toss was nonviolent.
After deliberating for about an hour, jurors returned guilty verdicts on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children.
Earlier, Barton, 30, of 112 Sadler St., Point Marion, testified that a "toss" differs significantly from a "throw."
"A toss and a throw are two different things, in my opinion," Barton testified as he stood in front of jurors, physically demonstrating how he dropped the infant onto the couch. "I didn't throw my son or shake him. He wouldn't shut up, for lack of better words. I just tossed him on the couch, and I walked away."
State police at Uniontown filed the charges after the baby, now 10 months old, spent four days in a pediatric intensive-care unit at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va.
His mother, Melanie Plum, testified Tuesday that her son has recovered but sees a neurologist monthly.
She nodded her head in agreement and smiled yesterday as jurors were polled individually on their verdicts before Judge Nancy Vernon.
Phyllis Jin, assistant district attorney, told jurors yesterday that a frustrated Barton violently picked up the child Feb. 16 and Feb. 18, causing injuries that a pediatrician described as consistent with having been shaken.
"He grabbed that baby, and when he picked that baby up, his head went backward," Jin said, indicating the rough handling, which resulted in retinal and brain hemorrhaging that required hospitalization.
Jin said Barton's own words point to the frustration that led to the assault.
"He said the baby was crying, and he wouldn't shut up," Jin said. "Those words are piercing, when you're talking about a 3-month-old baby. This is coming from the biological father, saying he wouldn't shut up."
Barton's attorney, Mary Campbell Spegar, suggested the child's injuries might have been caused in a fall days earlier from a bed, or when Barton administered CPR. She said Plum might have been responsible, noting the woman testified that she shook one of Elijah's legs after he went limp following the Feb. 16 incident.
"When she saw that baby limp, isn't it possible she shook that baby, trying to revive him?" Spegar said, noting that no one saw Barton shake the infant.
Spegar asked jurors to disregard much of Plum's testimony because the woman initially told police that Elijah might have been injured in a fall from a bed or when another child struck him in the forehead with a rattle.
On Tuesday, Plum testified she was untruthful at first because she feared Barton would harm her. She testified that she waited until days later to revise her statement to police, after she and Elijah had moved to her mother's residence.
Vernon did not immediately set a date for Barton's sentencing, pending a report by the county's probation office.