Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dad on trial for murder in death of 6-month-old daughter (Akron, Ohio)

We've posted several times on this case over the past year. Now the fate of dad JOHN WILBERT JONES rests with the jury.


Jury deliberates in baby's death Panel weighs fate of father, 18, after hearing closing arguments from defense, prosecution

By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer

Published on Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Within three days of her arrival in the emergency room at Akron Children's Hospital, Jada Ruiz Jones' condition was clear to her pediatric specialists.

The 6-month-old infant would never recover.

Doctors told the young mother, Deja Ruiz, that the effects of shaken baby syndrome on Jada's brain were so severe, resulting in a prolonged loss of oxygen, they believed the best decision would be to remove her from life support.

What happened next, Summit County prosecutors said in Monday's closing arguments, was probably the most telling fact in the murder trial of the 18-year-old father, John Wilbert Jones.

Assistant county prosecutor Teri Burnside said Jones steadfastly fought the decision to remove Jada from life support — for four months.

Why? Already facing charges of felonious assault and child endangering, Burnside argued, Jones knew the decision to disconnect would mean that he would be charged with murder.

''So did he really have the best interests of Jada?'' Burnside asked in summation, leaving the answer hanging.

After 41/2 hours of jury deliberations Monday, the fifth day of Jones' trial, the panel of six men and six women went home for the night at 5:30 p.m. without reaching a verdict.

Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove, who is hearing the case, ordered the deliberations to resume today at 9 a.m.

Jones, whose case began in Summit County Juvenile Court last year when he was 17, is charged with two counts of murder, two counts of felonious assault and additional felony counts of child endangering.

His case was bound over to adult court and he was indicted Nov. 2.

Trial testimony showed that Jada was admitted to Children's in full cardiac arrest on the morning of March 19, 2010.

Jones made the emergency call that day, at 9:44 a.m., from the small home of his former girlfriend, Ruiz, then 19.

Both sides agreed that Jones, who was caring for Jada, her twin sister and their 2-year-old brother, was the only adult in the apartment when he made the call.

Both sides also agreed that Ruiz left to catch a bus for school at 8:05 a.m.

Although she was initially a suspect when Akron police detectives arrived at the apartment, she was never arrested or charged with any offense.

Four months later, on July 16, Jada was pronounced dead after Summit County Probate Judge Bill Spicer approved Ruiz's request to remove her daughter from life support.

It was against that backdrop that defense attorney Joseph F. Gorman attempted to create reasonable doubt in the state's theory.

Prosecutors contended that because Jada's injuries left her unconscious almost immediately, Jones was the only one who could have caused them because of the timing of the 911 call.

Gorman called two witnesses to dispute those allegations — veteran forensic pathologist Jonathan L. Arden, of McLean, Va., a former top aid in the New York City medical examiner's office, and Jones himself.

From more than 30 years' experience in forensic pathology, with his specialty being pediatric forensics, Arden told the jury he strongly disagreed that the effects of Jada's injuries were instantaneous.

In more than three hours of testimony, Arden left the jury with his opinion, based on a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, that Jada's injuries could have been caused before Ruiz left the apartment, Gorman argued.

A member of Ruiz's family began weeping in the public gallery and hurriedly left the courtroom soon after Arden made that statement.

Jones, who took the stand Friday evening after Arden's lengthy testimony, told the jury he was half-asleep when Ruiz took a shower about 7 a.m. He said she woke him shortly before 8 a.m. and he saw her to the door.

Jones said he then went back into the living room and propped feeding bottles, using a blanket, into the mouths of both Jada and her sister, who were on a small couch. He said he then went back to sleep when the babies appeared to accept the bottles.

Jones told police that when he awoke about 10:15 a.m. (only the time was incorrect, according to Gorman) Jada's body was limp and he called 911.

Gorman noted that Jada's feeding bottle was a crucial piece of evidence at the crime scene — one that Akron police never collected to determine whether about half of the milk was left, as Jones had said.

With no such physical evidence, Gorman produced a police crime scene photo of the bottle on its side, next to a pacifier on the small couch, and showed it to the jury on the courtroom's big-screen television.

Inspection of the photo with a brighter image showed that the bottle, indeed, appeared to have only half of the milk left, Gorman said.

''I wish I could reach into that picture and show you, but I can't because they didn't do their job,'' he said, referring to the police oversight.

''It doesn't make any sense, folks, and it's certainly not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Justice here,'' Gorman said, emphasizing that one word. ''I'm asking you to do justice.''