A 2-year-old girl was beaten to death, even as she tried to defend herself against her mother’s boyfriend.
Mr. Roddicus Butler said he was merely disciplining the toddler for soiling her pants and that there was no malicious intent.
But on Monday the Supreme Court of Georgia rejected Mr. Roddicus Butler’s claim and unanimously upheld his murder conviction and life sentence for killing Jamira Washington.
“The evidence in this case was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Butler striking Jamira did not amount to reasonable discipline of the child, that he acted with the requisite malice, and that he was guilty of felony murder,” Justice Keith Blackwell writes for the court.
The following details were obtained from court documents:
Mr. Butler lived in Bainbridge with Doretha Washington, their infant son and her two other children, one of whom was Jamira.
The morning of Nov. 19, 2003, Ms. Washington left for work, leaving the children in Mr. Butler’s care. She would later testify that her daughter, Jamira, seemed “scared” of Mr. Butler.
In the early afternoon, Mr. Butler’s mother, who lived nearby, saw him carrying Jamira down the road. Mr. Butler told his mother and another woman, who heard Mr. Butler’s mother screaming and came to help, that the child was choking.
Mr. Butler’s mother called 911 while the other woman performed CPR on the toddler. As she did so, the woman noticed large bruises on Jamira’s abdomen. Emergency personnel transported the child to the hospital, where Jamira was pronounced dead.
Mr. Butler told police he had slept until early afternoon, when he found Jamira unresponsive and began CPR. He then carried her down the road in search of help, although he added that he had first cleaned up the kitchen.
“The medical examiner subsequently determined that Jamira had died from blunt-force trauma to her abdomen,” according to the court documents. “He found large bruises and ruled out the possibility that she had choked to death or died from improperly administered CPR.
He found a large amount of blood inside the toddler’s organs, consistent with severe beating.
“The medical examiner also found subdural hematomas, which occur when the brain slams against the skull, a fractured arm, bruises on the child’s back and defensive wounds on her hands, evidently caused by knuckles. And there was a puncture wound on the back of Jamira’s head.”
Confronted with the medical examiner’s findings, Mr. Butler admitted to hitting the toddler in the stomach three or four times and slapping her on the head because she had soiled her pants.
“He confirmed that he had caused several of her injuries and that she was trying to defend herself during the beating,” the court record showed.
Mr. Butler’s ring was seized because its shape resembled the puncture wound on Jamira’s head.
On May 4, 2004, the jury found Mr. Butler guilty of felony murder and first-degree cruelty to children within hours of the trial beginning.
In his appeal, Mr. Butler pointed to his own testimony that he was merely trying to discipline Jamira for messing up her pants and that the blows to her abdomen were an accident – hardly evidence the state needed to prove malice.
However, the state’s highest court rejected his claim.
“It is true that a parent…may apply some force to a child as a disciplinary measure without violating the law,” the opinion says. “But the application of such force must be reasonable, and if it is not, it may go beyond mere discipline and instead amount to malicious infliction of ‘cruel or excessive physical or mental pain.’
“Here, the evidence concerning the severity and scope of the injuries that Jamira sustained would permit an inference that whoever struck Jamira did so maliciously and that the injuries were not the result of reasonable measures.”
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