boy, 12, found not guilty of murder in infant‘s death
By Alexandra Zayas,
Times Staff Writer
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Ga. — The 12–year–old Tampa boy sat in the Cobb County Juvenile Courthouse
Friday morning, still an accused baby murderer. A few hours later, he chomped on
potato chips and Skittles and asked to go to the all-you-can-eat buffet at
Golden Corral. He told his family he had plans for his future.
“I want to
be a judge,” he said. “I want to go to Harvard.”
announcement came after one made by Judge A. Gregory Poole: The boy was not
guilty of murder and child cruelty in the July death of his 5–week–old cousin,
Young. He was guilty of a lesser offense, two counts of battery, which could
carry a two-year sentence, served either in a detention center, a group home, or
as probation while living with family. The sentence will come with
will decide it on Jan. 6.
Had the boy
been convicted of murder, he would have faced nine years in detention.
prepared to leave the courthouse, the boy‘s grandmother wrapped him in a tight
hug and told him, “See how God delivered you?”
responded, “Yes, ma’am.”
• • •
days, lawyers tried to convince a judge of what they thought happened inside a
parked car on July 4.
The boy, his
name kept secret by court order, was visiting relatives near Atlanta when he got
into a car with his mother’s 22-year–old first cousin Brittiany Young and her
infant daughter. Young stopped at Target to get food and left the car
returned, she testified, the boy was playing on his cell phone. The radio was
turned up. And the baby’s mouth was swollen. Her lips were blue. Her eyes were
hard to the touch. She was limp and not breathing. The baby died the following
doctors testified about the child’s injuries: two types of brain hemorrhages,
retinal hemorrhages, unrelated fractures on opposite sides of her head, and
bruising of the mouth and other parts of her body. Tissue on her upper lip was
bruised, something that happens when babies are force-fed.
the injuries weren’t accidental but couldn’t determine who caused them. The
medical examiner called it a homicide, finding that the child must have been
held firmly, shaken and slammed at least twice against a hard, flat surface.
tests found no physical evidence in the car. Prosecutors had testimony that the
baby was acting normally before the mother left the car and was unresponsive
when she returned.
statements Friday, defense attorney Derek Wright tried to convince the judge
that prosecutors didn’t prove the boy was the murderer. He said he could make a
case against the baby’s mother, noting that several emergency responders said
Young was acting unusually calm when they arrived, but that the boy was sobbing
and pacing. He suggested the possibility that the baby was injured at the
mother’s home minutes away but didn’t show signs of trauma until the parking
mother sat in the courtroom on a bench closest to the door. She stared ahead
with tears in her eyes as Wright said she could have let her cousin take the
Eleanor Odom argued that the baby’s mother didn’t appear distraught because she
didn’t yet know the extent of the baby’s injuries, but that the boy already
Odom took a
blood-stained, pink onesie out of an evidence bag and showed it to the
“You can see
the size, how big Millan really was,” Odom said. “I think this speaks more words
than those pictures ever could.”
Dressed in a
shirt and tie, the skinny, dimpled boy stayed calm as the judge delivered his
verdict: “I find beyond a reasonable doubt that Millan suffered major trauma
during the 18 minutes the juvenile was alone with the baby. … I find that the
juvenile caused the injuries and that the baby later died as a result of the
do I think happened? This child was left alone with the baby. I don’t know that
should have happened, but it did …
child he really didn’t know, started crying, and it got louder …
know what to do. I think he was scared. He tried using the pacifier to make this
baby stop crying. It didn’t work. What did he do next?
“He got out
the bottle of water … He gives it to the baby. The baby won’t be quiet. Turns up
the radio so he won’t have to hear this baby crying. That didn’t work. He might
have even turned it up again. Well, the pink pacifier didn’t work. Let’s use the
purple pacifier …
juvenile was trying to get the baby to quit crying. … He was scared, and he
didn’t know what to do. … I wouldn’t expect him to know what to do.
“I find that
in order to get the baby to be quiet, using his own means as a 12–year–old, that
he committed batteries, plural, against this baby …
child mean that his actions would kill Millan? No …
think I can find possibly if I wanted to go further, some type of an involuntary
manslaughter. In my mind, I’ve still got to place this child with some
expectation, some appreciation for the horrific damage that it has done, and I
find nothing along those lines.
“Did he do
wrong? Oh yeah, he did. I wish it hadn’t happened, but it did.”
judge stopped talking, the boy started to cry. His parents embraced him, also in
tears. His mother smiled.
mother left the courtroom after the verdict and declined to comment. The boy‘s
grandmother said the family planned to gather at Brittiany Young’s home later
needed to decide where the boy would stay until the sentencing. He was
originally locked up in a juvenile detention center, but later transferred to a
secured group home.
representative from the group home told the judge the boy had a tough transition
into his school and, due to the stresses of his case, sometimes shut down
emotionally. But he said the boy was a role model and standout student.
allowed him to return to the group home and said he was welcome to visit with
family. He told the boy his behavior in the next month will be important in
deciding a sentence. The boy promised to be good.
boy‘s attorney told the family, “Y’all go breathe.”
• • •
grandmother, Joyce Hightower, couldn’t sleep Thursday night. She’d driven from
Tampa earlier that day and spent the night reading news about the case and
her grandson’s hand, she asked him how he felt.
told her. “Anxious.”
what?” she asked.
He said, “To
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