Scott guilty of manslaughter, aggravated abuse; State: No ‘fault’ in jury’s verdict
A jury found Kashon Scott guilty of manslaughter and aggravated child abuse in the May 29, 2007, death of 3-year-old Zahid Jones Jr. after a week’s worth of trial and seven hours of deliberations.
The charge of manslaughter is a lesser of what the state initially charged Scott with — first-degree felony homicide.
The jury returned its verdict at 9 p.m. Monday after again requesting to listen to more than an hour and a half of police interviews entered as evidence, and initially feeling a verdict could not be reached.
“That is a very respectable verdict; I do not find any fault with the jury’s verdict,” said Assistant State Attorney Francine Donnarummo, lead prosecutor for the state. “This is justice, this is why we have a trial.”
Scott faces a maximum possible sentence of 60 years in prison, and will be sentenced before Lee County Circuit Judge Mark Steinbeck in a Lee County courtroom Oct. 27.
Scott’s attorneys, lead by Michael Reiter, raised several issues of accused misconduct on the part of the state in a motion to have the trial thrown out Monday morning.
“Even if (Steinbeck) doesn’t, we have the right to ask for another trial and appeal,” said Reiter.
Reiter said a file for appeal would come from the defense at Scott’s request.
Reiter asked Steinbeck to consider ruling on prosecutorial misconduct on the grounds that prosecutors coached Jack and Jessica Nash, Zahid’s 11-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister, to say “I don’t remember” to defense attorneys; that Jack and Jessica changed their testimony as to Scott’s alibi during the case without notice to the defense prior to trial; and that swabbing of belts potentially used to hit Zahid the weekend before his death destroyed any possible fingerprints and potential evidence to Scott’s defense.
Steinbeck will give the state two weeks to respond to the accusations and a hearing will be set for the judge to rule on the defense’s motions. The judge could rule to throw out the case if he agrees with the defense.
“I’m not terribly concerned,” said Donnarummo, who felt since the content of the motions had been previously discussed and the state’s counterarguments were strong, it would have little bearing on Monday’s outcome.
Earlier in the day, the jury heard closing arguments from the state and the defense.
“From the battered and bruised body of that child … there is no question that child suffered aggravated child abuse … but what would motivate someone to be so blunt to do that to a baby?” state prosecutor Bob Lee asked jurors Monday morning referring to Zahid.
“There was a rivalry going on that weekend. A rivalry over the affections of Nicole Brewington,” he continued. “After Zahid Jones Sr. went off to prison, who comes on the scene? The defendant does. We know that weekend that Nicole Brewington is carrying the baby of the defendant. What could trigger what happened? He (Zahid Jones Sr.) is getting out of prison.”
Lee told the jury that Scott focused his abuse on Zahid because of his father, and was less harsh against Jack and Jessica.
“There are two other children in this family; their names are not Jones, their names are Nash,” Lee said. “That weekend, that man focused upon this baby. Jealousy is a powerful, powerful emotion … and when something touches it off, it can turn violent.”
State attorneys argued throughout the weeklong trial that Scott caused the fatal perforation to Zahid’s bowel through blunt-force trauma by the commission of aggravated child abuse.
Though several state witnesses, including Brewington’s sister Latroyer Lamar, testified Scott was at Brewington’s Cape Coral home the Thursday prior to Zahid’s death, a number of Scott’s family members have maintained he was at his brother Chester Scott’s house until late Saturday evening, allegedly after Zahid’s symptoms began.
“All three statements of Jessica, all four statements of Jack, my client’s statements, all consistent … Zahid threw up on Saturday, before my client got there,” argued Reiter.
The state argued Zahid became distressed on Sunday, after Scott arrived and allegedly “whooped” Zahid in one of the home’s bathrooms on Saturday night.
“(The state) doesn’t consider just vomiting and pain to be part of the distress; yes it is,” said Reiter. “You didn’t hear one bit of evidence … that anyone said my client caused that blow … they want you to jump to that conclusion, there’s no evidence to support it.”
During a police interview, Scott said multiple times that he did not hit Zahid over the weekend prior to his death, but that he would take the blame to protect Brewington. Scott also told Cape Coral detectives Christy Ellis and Scott Johnson and Lt. Michael Urraro that he punished Zahid with a belt to “make him a better man than his father.”
“He said ‘I’m willing to take the heat,'” Reiter told jurors. “Don’t you let him do that. Don’t let him take the heat for somebody else.”
A major component of the state’s case against Scott was testimony from Jack and Jessica regarding the alleged abuse of Zahid. Jessica testified last week that she heard Scott “whooping” Zahid in a bathroom of their home the Saturday night before he died. Jack said Scott hit him and Zahid in the chest over that weekend.
But the defense demonstrated inconsistencies in the childrens’ statements during the trial versus those made during previous interviews and depositions taken several months prior by attorneys.
Jack and Jessica had trouble remembering statements posed by the defense regarding what they had told police, and sometimes gave conflicting statements to ones they previously had made, making it a major crux for the jury.
“Their main witnesses were children,” said Donnarummo.
Donnarummo said the state was not at fault for telling Jack and Jessica to say “I don’t remember” if they did not know the answer to a question.
The families of Scott and Jones, including Zahid’s biological father Zahid Jones Sr., were dismissed separately following the reading of verdict and dismissal of the jury.