Dad JOSHUA W. MILLER has been convicted of aggravated assault (among other things) for injuries sustained by his 2-month-old son. Notice that Daddy denied doing anything even by accident. But the scenario described below is very typical in these cases. A dad who flips out over a crying baby....
November 10, 2010
Jury: Dad injured baby
SANDRA K. REABUCK
email@example.com The Tribune-Democrat Wed Nov 10, 2010, 11:37 PM EST
EBENSBURG — A Johnstown father was convicted on Wednesday afternoon of shaking his 2-month-old son so severely that it caused bleeding into the infant’s brain and eyes.
The jury of six men and six women returned “guilty” verdicts on all four charges against Joshua W. Miller, 32, despite his taking the witness stand and denying that he had shaken the child or done anything to injure him, even accidentally.
Miller, 32, formerly of Stone Street, faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five to 10 years when he is sentenced Jan. 10 by Judge David Tulowitzki.
Prosecutors Tamara Bernstein and Beth Bolton had told the judge – but not the jury – just before the testimony began that Miller had turned down a plea bargain with a recommended sentence of five to 10 years.
He was convicted on charges of aggravated assault, child endangerment, reckless endangerment and simple assault. The jurors deliberated nearly three hours before returning the verdict.
During the three-day trial, the defense attempted to raise reasonable doubt about the cause of the bleeding, bringing in a Maryland neurosurgeon who testified that the problem stemmed from an injury during the baby’s birth.
The defense had repeatedly brought out that doctors had found no broken bones or bruises on the child after he was admitted to the hospital.
But Bernstein, the lead prosecutor, said afterward that the jurors obviously had believed the testimony of the state’s expert – Dr. Janet Squires, head of the child advocacy program at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Squires had testified that the sudden onset of the bleeding in a baby who had been described as “perfectly healthy” was caused by shaking and that the case was one of physical child abuse.
“If you accepted our doctor’s medical testimony, you couldn’t believe that he did not shake him,” the prosecutor said.
When the jury foreman announced “guilty” to each of the charges, Miller dropped his head.
Chief public defender Lisa Lazzari, who represents Miller, said that an appeal would be filed. She rushed past reporters afterward without stopping to take any questions.
Miller was taken out of the courtroom by a rear door and was unavailable for comment.
His bond was increased to $40,000 from $30,000, and he was given until Friday to post additional money. The judge also ordered that the defendant surrender his passport.
Miller told the jury that the child had suddenly become limp and unresponsive after crying for nearly an hour.
Despite his attempts to calm the child, “he just got more and more upset and was just crying,” the father said.
After giving the baby a bath in the hope that the child would be soothed by the warm water and stop crying, Miller said, “He still was screaming pretty good. Alligator tears came down his face.”
Shortly afterward, the baby “seemed to trying to catch his breath,” Miller testified.
“I picked him up to get him dressed, and his eyes rolled back, and his head went back.”
The father said he rushed to the phone to call 911 for help.
Kathy Smith, the baby’s grandmother, said afterward that the jury’s verdict was “justice. I was at his (the baby’s side) at the hospital and watched as he gasped for breath with tubes in him. I saw how he suffered.”
Miller should be held accountable for what he did to her grandson, she said.
Fortunately, the boy, now just days away from his second birthday, is doing well, although Squires had warned there could be unknown long-term effects, Bernstein said.
In her closing to the jury, Bernstein said that Miller had become so frustrated and angry with the baby’s continued crying that he had shaken the child in an attempt to stop it.
Lazzari, however, in asking for a “not guilty” verdict, said that the prosecution’s case was based “on conjecture, speculation and guessing.”