Friday, September 26, 2014

"Doting dad" convicted of 1st-degree murder of 10-week-old son; admits he repeatedly "bounced" baby on this head (Muskegon, Michigan)

Once again we see that behind every killer dad is an enabler who claims he's a "doting" dad, and nothing was EVER Daddy's fault. Nope, it was his ADD and learning disabilities. It was his reading problems! Next we'll hear how it was his halitosis or the heartbreak of psoriasis.

Fortunately, the jury didn't buy this bullsh**.

Dad is identified as ANTHONY CASANOVA.

Dad convicted of first-degree murder in death of baby boy in Muskegon County

By John S. Hausman on September 25, 2014 at 6:10 PM, updated September 25, 2014 at 6:11 PM

MUSKEGON, MI – In the end, it was a swift verdict for Anthony Casanova: Guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his 10-week-old son Tyler.

Jurors were out barely 45 minutes before coming back with that maximum verdict.

Casanova, his face somber as he stood at the defense table next to Muskegon County Public Defender Fred Johnson, showed no change of expression when the verdict was read just before 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25.

But his mother, Darlene Thomas, who testified in his defense earlier in the day, wept audibly in the audience.

Jurors had four possible verdicts to choose from: Not guilty, or guilty of first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter. They chose the top charge.

All jurors declined to comment as they left the jury room after the verdict.

The mandatory sentence is life in prison without chance of parole. Muskegon County 14th Circuit Chief Judge William C. Marietti scheduled sentencing for 9:15 a.m. Oct. 27.

Johnson said Casanova will appeal the verdict.

"We're pleased, obviously, that Tyler got the justice that he so deserved, and I look forward to his killer being sentenced for the rest of his life in prison," Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said. Hilson, the county's elected prosecutor, handled the case personally from the start.

The jury of six women and six men began deliberating shortly after 3:35 p.m. Sept. 25 and reported they had a verdict before 4:25 p.m. Anthony Casanova was convicted of first degree murder in the death of his 10-week-old son Tyler Casanova on January 4, 2013.

In closing arguments to jurors Thursday afternoon, Hilson and Johnson summed up their cases.

Johnson acknowledged the damage done to the defense by a video of Casanova's interview with a police detective – in which Casanova eventually said he repeatedly "bounced" the baby down head-first on an inflated air mattress and twice squeezed him until his breath stopped -- and testimony by Muskegon County's medical examiner that Tyler's injuries were not consistent with Casanova's original story that he had accidentally fallen on the baby after tripping over his dog.

"That was devastating for the defense," Johnson said of the video. "You heard it, you saw it... And then you heard the medical examiner this morning, and that too was devastating for the defense. I'm not going to try to pull you away from that."

In his closing argument, Johnson never mentioned the dog story, which he put forward as the truth in his opening statement Sept. 23.

Instead, he seemed to be arguing for a compromise verdict – a conviction not of first-degree felony murder, as the prosecution asked, but something less, such as manslaughter or second-degree murder.

Johnson focused on intent. He noted multiple witnesses who testified Casanova loved his children and was good with them.

"The step was made over the line. ... But it wasn't intentional," Johnson said. "What father intends to kill his child?"

Hilson argued for conviction of the maximum possible charge: first-degree felony murder, meaning murder done while committing the felony of first-degree child abuse.

"This is not a manslaughter case," Hilson said.

"You don't get to kill your kid and say you lost it. No way. No way. This man intentionally inflicted these injuries on a defenseless 2-month-old child," Hilson said. "Don't compromise. Find him guilty of felony murder."

Hilson told jurors that, even if they didn't find proof that Casanova intended to kill or do great bodily harm to his son, they must still find him guilty of murder if he "showed a willful and wanton disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of his conduct is to cause death or great bodily harm."

Also Thursday afternoon, Tyler's maternal grandmother, Joyce Wagner, the defendant's younger brother Mark Thomas and a day-care provider, Robin Carpenter, all testified they saw nothing abnormal about Tyler when they saw him days before his death.

Earlier Sept. 25, Casanova wept as his mother emotionally told jurors her beliefs about how kind he is, how good with small children, and how prone to be a "people pleaser" who will tell people what they want to hear when he's under pressure.

"You don't get to kill your kid and say you lost it. No way. No way. This man intentionally inflicted these injuries on a defenseless 2-month-old child."
Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson

But jurors also heard testimony from Muskegon County's medical examiner, a highly experienced forensic pathologist, that Casanova's baby son's injuries were not consistent with the story Casanova initially told investigators.

Casanova, 41, was convicted of killing Tyler on Jan. 4, 2013. At first he said he tripped over his dog while holding the baby and fell on him, but later during a long police interview said he had "bounced" the crying baby seven or eight times on an inflated air mattress and squeezed him twice in a "bear hug."

Casanova's mother, Darlene Thomas, was the first defense witness. She said her son had learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder and reading problems.

She said those and a "people pleasing" personality make him prone to tell people what they want to hear when he's under pressure, even if it's a false confession.

Thomas also said Casanova loves children and is a doting father. He and his ex-wife adopted twin special-needs infants who were 2 when Tyler died. She said he had been told he couldn't have biological children and was overjoyed when he learned his girlfriend, Julia Striker, was pregnant with Tyler.

Thomas lives in another state and said she had not seen Casanova after Tyler was born, but that Casanova constantly texted her photographs of Tyler and his adopted children.

Casanova became visibly emotional as his mother testified, wiping his eyes repeatedly and openly crying at some points. Thomas herself wept for several minutes after Johnson was done questioning her and before Hilson began his cross-examination.

Injuries inconsistent with explanation

Earlier Thursday morning, Dr. Joyce deJong, Muskegon County medical examiner, testified for the prosecution about her examination and autopsy of Tyler on Jan. 5, 2013, the day after he died.

She described extensive injuries, including a skull fracture, bleeding between the skull and the brain, bleeding behind the eyes, and bruises, some partially healed, on Tyler's chin, chest and abdomen. The bruises on his body were the size of fingertips – some 25 of them, she said. She said Tyler also had numerous partially healed rib fractures, a lacerated liver, bleeding inside his spleen and a bruised heart.

Her medical conclusion: His death was a homicide caused by "multiple injuries intentionally inflicted by another."

She said the injuries were not consistent with Casanova's original story of accidentally falling on Tyler, crushing him.

Under cross-examination by Johnson, deJong said that even if the older, healing injuries were disregarded, even the fatal head injury alone was not consistent with being crushed by another object. That's because bleeding inside the skull, caused by tearing of tiny veins, is consistent only with a "motion injury," with the baby striking another object while moving.

She also said the bruises on Tyler's body were not consistent with a panicked, untrained person trying to revive a baby using CPR.

Norton Shores Police Detective Lori Sinclair also testified for the prosecution.

Sinclair said she checked the air mattress on which Casanova said he had repeatedly bounced Tyler while sitting on the edge. She said, when compressed, the mattress was very firm, much firmer than an ordinary mattress.