Attorneys banter issues before judge in Scott trial; Jury may begin deliberations today
The jury spent almost as much time outside the courtroom Thursday as it did inside during day three of the trial of Kashon Scott, accused in the killing of 3-year-old Zahid Jones Jr. over Memorial Day weekend 2007.
Scott is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, and if convicted faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Scott’s defense team and state prosecutors spent a fair portion of Thursday discussing trial issues with presiding Lee Circuit Judge Mark Steinbeck — outside the presence of the jury, which waited patiently to return and hear witness testimony from the defense.
Scott’s defense team, lead by attorney Michael Reiter, argued several points Thursday.
First, they argued that a video police interview between Cape Coral Lt. Michael Urraro and Scott was the third police interview the day Zahid died, and that two other interviews that day should be shown as a continuation of the one shown in court. State attorneys said the statements were in different rooms and Scott initiated the interview with Urraro after a previous one had been concluded, so they were in fact separate interviews.
Scott testified outside the presence of the jury that he considered the interview with Urraro a continuation because CCPD detectives Christy Ellis and Scott Johnson “wouldn’t listen to him,” and he was “being railroaded.”
Steinbeck said Scott’s testimony didn’t violate his right to remain silent while the jury was out.
“I wanted to continue the statement that I was already giving,” Scott told Assistant State Attorney Francine Donnarummo. “… because (Ellis and Johnson) weren’t listening to me.”
Steinbeck ruled in favor of the defense, saying police often switched who was interviewing a suspect in the middle of the interview process, and that Scott believed it was a continuation. The judge told both sides they had to present the jury with redacted portions of the other interviews that both sides agreed pertained to the statement to Urraro.
“The defense is entitled to have at least the voice of the defendant,” Steinbeck told the state, which asked that only a printed transcript be entered into evidence or read aloud by a defense attorney.
Scott’s attorneys also requested an acquittal of Scott on felony murder because Zahid didn’t die immediately during the alleged fatal blow but rather died days later.
Steinbeck denied the motion. He also denied the defense’s request to present the jury with child hearsay statements of Zahid through the testimony of Teresa Stephens, Zahid’s pediatrician, and the child’s grandmother Janice Jones.
Stephens and Jones were interviewed outside the presence of the jury so Steinbeck could make a fair ruling.
Both said they asked Zahid in December 2006 about bruises and belt marks they observed on his body, and both said he replied “mommy did it.”
Latroyer Lamar, the sister of Nicole Brewington, Zahid’s mother, was also called by the defense while the jury was out and she said she saw Brewington hit Zahid with a belt, but she didn’t remember when it happened. Because it wasn’t relevant to Scott’s case, the judge said, the testimony was not allowed.
Brewington has been charged with manslaughter of a child and faces 30 years in jail if convicted. She is awaiting trial.
The defense called several of Scott’s family members to vouch for his whereabouts over the weekend Zahid died and to tell the jury their observations of Scott’s interactions with Zahid and Brewington’s two other children, Jack and Jessica Nash.
“They respected him like a father,” said Scott’s brother, Chester Scott.
Chester said Scott was at his house Thursday, Friday and Saturday until late. The state pointed out that Chester said in court he heard about Zahid’s death the day it happened or the day after, but in a deposition taken before trial, he said he heard on the following Sunday.
Several witnesses testified to Scott being at Chester Scott’s house on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and that he relied on getting a ride because he didn’t have a car. They testified also that they never saw Scott hit or yell at the kids.
“(Zahid, Jack and Jessica) loved Kashon, because any time the ice cream truck come … when they needed help with their homework, he was the one to help them …” said Robert Raybon.
Carolyn Smith, Scott’s mother, testified on Scott’s behalf.
“(Brewington’s children) were real friendly towards him,” she told jurors.
Smith said when Scott was a child he would often suck on his younger sister’s cheeks and leave marks, something the defense is arguing is a possible cause of bruises on Zahid’s face.
“He would always be affectionate with her,” Smith said. She had to tell the then-youngster Kashon Scott to stop sometimes when he got too rough.
“He would sometimes leave … marks,” she said.
Smith said she was denied the chance to speak with Scott the day of Zahid’s death at the Cape Coral police station, despite the requests of both Smith and Scott to speak with one another throughout that afternoon.
The defense called several witnesses earlier in the day who spoke with Jack and Jessica Nash since Zahid’s death, and used their testimony to impeach the children, who answered questions to jurors earlier in the week, on their testimony and previous recorded statements.
Cynthia Morant, who worked as a child welfare case manager and interacted heavily with Jack and Jessica Nash following Zahid’s death, testified to an argument she heard between the siblings during which Jack said he didn’t break a cup over the weekend Zahid got sick and that Jessica told on him. Jack said during his testimony that he had broke the cup and was punched in the chest by Scott as a form of punishment.
Child Advocacy Center worker Alexa Matyas told the jury about statements made to her by Jack and Jessica during an interview the day their little brother died.
The dates and times of events over the weekend of Zahid’s death, along with some of the details about Scott’s alleged abuse of Zahid and Jack, were different when Jessica took the stand than they were when she was interviewed by Matyas.
“She said that things were running together and she was having difficulty remembering,” Matyas said.
Similarly, Jack’s interview with Matyas that day showed a different picture than he painted in the courtroom.
“He said (Scott) does nothing, (Scott) lets the mother do it,” Matyas said of what Jack told her about being punished. “He told me that (Brewington) hits him with a shoe … and flicks him on the head.”
The trial will continue today as the defense proceeds, and may conclude by late tonight.
Steinbeck said the jury would be given the option to deliberate late into the evening or continue Saturday morning. A jury has never opted to deliberate on a Saturday in his courtroom, Steinbeck said.