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Mom on trial in alleged baby battering case

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Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 1:36 pm

Editor’s note: As this is an ongoing trial, Herrin is still innocent until proven guilty by a jury of her peers. The fact that a case goes to trial only means a crime has been alleged; it’s not an indicator of guilt. This article gives background into the case as well as the opening statements of the prosecution and defense. Witnesses will testify over the next four days and the case is expected to be turned over to the jury on Friday.

 

LEXINGTON – The jury trial of Doris Herrin began late Monday after at the Dawson County Courthouse. It took presiding Judge Jim Doyle, prosecuting attorney Liz Waterman and defense attorney Jeff Wightman several hours to interview 100 potential jurors to get the 14 that are serving on the jury panel.

Due to the anticipated length of the trial, five days, the court thought it would be wise to have two alternates lined up. The 14 men and women chosen for jury duty have no idea who those alternates are, so all will have to follow the case until its conclusion, where two of the jurors will be dismissed before deliberations begin.

Herrin, 28, a Gothenburg resident, was arrested and jailed Dec. 24, 2010 for child abuse resulting in the death of her three-year-old daughter, Misty. Also arrested and implicated in the death of the toddler was 25-year-old Adam Jesseph, Herrin’s boyfriend at the time. The case against Jesseph was dismissed last December.

Herrin and Jesseph brought an unresponsive Misty Herrin into the Gothenburg Memorial Hospital emergency room at about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010.

In her opening statement to the jury, Waterman told the jury that Herrin and Jesseph reported that the girl had fallen while unattended in a bedroom. The treating physician at Gothenburg Memorial Hospital, Craig Bartruff, reported that the injuries Misty sustained were inconsistent with that story.

After Misty was examined by Bartruff, she was transported by helicopter to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney where emergency surgery was performed to relieve cranial pressure. She was placed on life support, but died the next afternoon.

Autopsy results indicate Misty had rotational injuries, consistent with being shaken, but the ultimate cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Waterman alleges that Herrin caused Misty’s death.

“You’ll see the many faces of Doris Herrin during this trial,” Waterman promised the jury. “I mean that literally.”

Waterman claims that while in the emergency room, Herrin’s behavior toward her daughter and her condition was one of “total disregard.”

According to Waterman, while Herrin was in the emergency room, she didn’t touch Misty, didn’t go near her. In fact, Herrin allegedly had a small puppy in the ER that she was showing everybody.

And Herrin’s stories about what happened to Misty continually changed.

When Herrin and Jesseph were arrested, she was adamant about what had happened to Misty, said Waterman, and cooperated with law enforcement for interviews.

As time progressed, said Waterman, Herrin’s stories changed. In the original story to investigators, Herrin said she heard Misty fall and ran into the room to see what had happened to her.

In another version of the story, Herrin allegedly said she had been sleeping when it happened. In yet another version of the story, Herrin told investigators Misty had a pre-existing head injury.

Waterman promised there would be witnesses in the coming days that would include a fellow jailmate who claims Herrin confessed to her what really happened, as well as Herrin’s own mother who is to testify that in 2009 Herrin allegedly brought Misty to her, “Worried she might hurt her.”

“This was an abuse case, not an accidental fall,” Waterman contended. “She was abused. She had a traumatic brain injury and she never woke up.”

In her statement to the prosecution, the jail witness said that Herrin allegedly picked up her daughter and threw her at the wall, causing a blow to her head, a fact that Wightman disputed during his opening statements.

He pointed to Herrin’s small stature.

“That’s not even plausible,” Wightman said, indicating the child weighed 30 or 35 pounds.

Wightman pointed out the only person who seems to be saying she heard the alleged confession of Herrin was the one jailmate. He also pointed out there are nearly 18 other women that share that same small space. Why hadn’t they heard the same confession?

“Not every death of a child is the fault of someone,” Wightman said.

“I don’t know what happened to Misty Herrin,” Wightman continued, “but it’s not my job to show what happened to Misty Herrin.

“Doris wasn’t there. She can’t be sure what happened.”

Wightman pointed out that Jesseph was on the suspect list at one time.

“It’s possible he was involved,” Wightman countered.

As far as his own client is concerned, according to Wightman, the state would not be able to meet the burden of proof for a conviction against Herrin.

“They cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

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