After deliberating for six hours on Tuesday, a jury found Alex Midyette guilty of criminally negligent child abuse in the death of his 11-week-old son.
The jury of seven women and five men spared Midyette of the most serious charge of knowing and reckless child abuse resulting in death.
The 29-year-old Louisville man was charged in the March 2006 death of his son, Jason. Prosecutors said Jason suffered abuse at the hands of his father. Defense attorneys argued the boy suffered from a metabolic disease.
The negligence charge carries a range of four to 12 years in prison. Midyette has been taken into custody but can be released if he posts $1.5 million bond.
Molly Midyette, the boy's mother, is serving a 16-year sentence for her December 2007 conviction for failing to get Jason medical help.
The verdict comes nearly three years to the day when Jason was brought by his parents to the hospital with more than 30 broken bones, a fractured skull and a swollen brain. He was just 11 weeks old.
A grand jury indicted the parents 14 months later on the charge of child abuse resulting in death.
The case attracted an unprecedented amount of attention, forcing the court to move the trial from Boulder to Denver to ensure an impartial jury.
Two of the jurors were excused last week when they apparently developed a romantic relationship, said a source close to the case.
Jurors said throughout much of the deliberations, they were deadlocked over whether Alex Midyette was to blame for his son's injuries.
"It was a tough case," said juror Justin Kaufmann. "Couldn't get the consensus on the greater charge. We could get a consensus on the lesser charge."
Kaufmann said three jurors did not feel that there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that Midyette caused the infant's injuries.
"Whether the defendant did it or not, I don't know we really know," said juror Robert Malsbury.
What jurors did agree on was that Midyette was negligent because he did not seek medical treatment for his son sooner.
"They should have taken that poor baby to the hospital," said juror Angela Wainwright.
Deliberations began Friday after nearly five weeks of testimony
Prosecutors Said Midyette 'Pummeled' Son
In closing arguments, Boulder Chief Deputy District Attorney Ken Kupfner described for the jury how evidence presented during nearly five weeks of testimony portrayed a pattern of abuse.
"Pummeling. Hitting all over his body. That's not what this case is about," Kupfner said, arguing that Jason's injuries may not have been intentional but were done out of frustration by a first-time parent. "This case is about twisting, pulling the legs of a child. Squeezing the feet, the hands, the ribs of a young child."
Kupfner said Jason had a tear on a membrane that attached his lip to his gum, which he called a classic sign of child abuse; a bruise on his left temple that corresponded to brain injuries; and a broken skull.
Defense attorney Paul McCormick said the allegation of a torn membrane was wrong because an autopsy simply said there was no membrane there.
"We may never know exactly what happened to Jason. We think he had metabolic disease. The prosecution has not proved child abuse," McCormick said.
During trial, prosecutors presented doctors who described Jason's injuries and witnesses who testified that Midyette mishandled his young son, including dropping him onto his wife's lap.
The defense claims the Midyettes were loving parents who took their child to doctors five times during his 76 days of life. They were concerned Jason was not gaining enough weight after being born a week early, attorneys say.
The defense also argued the Midyettes didn't know the extent of Jason's injuries because he was a quiet child whose disease became apparent on Feb. 24, 2006, the day he slipped into a coma. Doctors called by the defense had testified that some of the fractures were really bone abnormalities indicative of a metabolic disease.
McCormick added Jason suffered from a disease destroying his brain.
"Jason wasn't meant to live. He's losing brain matter each day and that's sad. Whenever a baby dies we want to point the finger at someone," McCormick said.
Kupfner showed jurors pictures of Jason wrapped tightly in blankets in a carrier that Kupfner likened to a "cast" designed to immobilize the baby so he wouldn't fuss.
"When you didn't have him swaddled and you didn't have the fractures immobilized, he cried because he was in a lot of pain," Kupfner contended. He said Alex Midyette didn't let others hold Jason because he knew about the fractures.
Kupfner said the torn membrane was likely caused by jamming a bottle into Jason's mouth. He argued Alex Midyette caused the bruise to the head and that the skull fracture happened during a diaper change.
Midyette, Kupfner alleged, banged Jason's head at least three times and allowed him to heal before taking him to a pediatrician.
Kupfner asked jurors to use common sense about Jason's injuries, likening the defense's case to a fly fisherman muddying the waters in a stream.
"Some unnamed, rare, unknown metabolic disease is not reasonable doubt, it's muddying the water," he said. "Step back and let the water clear."
"We don't need to prove he had metabolic disease," McCormick countered. "If it makes you hesitate, then the verdict has to be not guilty."
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