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UPDATE: Testimony concludes in Bingaman murder trial

Jury to hear closing arguments this afternoon

Jury to hear closing arguments this afternoon

November 28, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Testimony concluded this morning in the trial of a 21-year-old Hagerstown man charged in the January death of his former girlfriend's infant son.

Floyd E. Bingaman Jr., father of defendant Floyd Edward Bingaman III, was the only witness called by the defense this morning.

After a lunch recess, the jury at Washington County Circuit Court is to hear closing arguments.

Floyd Edward Bingaman III is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the January death of 4-month-old Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon. Bingaman faces life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

Earlier this morning, Greg Alton of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, the lead investigator in the case, testified for an hour before the prosecution rested its case at 10 a.m.

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A woman in the courtoom audience Tuesday whispered "don't look" as a prosecutor and doctor displayed autopsy photographs of a tiny body to jurors during the second day of the trial of the man accused of killing the baby.

Expert witnesses testified Tuesday that severe head injuries caused baby Justice's death.

Dr. Donna Vincenti, an assistant medical examiner for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, performed the autopsy in January while she was serving a fellowship with the examiner's office.

During her testimony Tuesday morning, Vincenti said she believed the infant's death was a homicide.

Dr. Allen Walker, director of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, described Justice's head injuries as "very severe" and testified Tuesday morning that the injuries were "some of the worst I've seen."

Previous injuries

Blunt force trauma caused the injuries, and there was evidence of "severe shaking," Walker testified.

Based on the baby's rapid deterioration, the injuries occurred 15 to 20 minutes before an emergency call was made, Walker testified.

Justice's body showed evidence of previous injuries, Walker testified.

Vincenti testified that she found three faint bruises on his scalp, blood in the scalp tissue and multiple fractures in the skull, as well as bleeding into the brain.

She showed black-and-white photographs of Justice's body, taken at various points during the autopsy. The photographs showed stitches where Justice's body was sewn up after his organs were harvested.

Vincenti also found injuries to the baby's eyes, including bleeding inside the eye and around the optic nerve, she testified.

Justice might have sustained other, more subtle, injuries that were overshadowed by the bleeding and fractures, she testified.

'Completely unresponsive'

Dr. David Prisk, the emergency room physician who treated Justice when the boy was taken to Washington County Hospital late Jan. 4, described Justice as "completely unresponsive." Prisk told investigators the injuries could have occurred 24 to 72 hours before Justice was taken to the hospital.

After a series of tests, Prisk decided to transport the baby to another hospital.

"Whatever slim chance for survival he had would be found at Johns Hopkins' intensive care unit," Prisk testified.

Because of weather conditions, Johns Hopkins doctors could not fly west to retrieve the baby. A Maryland State Police helicopter crew already at Washington County Hospital volunteered to take Justice to Baltimore, Prisk said.

Washington County Sheriff's deputies started an investigation into Justice's injuries shortly after the baby arrived at Washington County Hospital.

On Jan. 5, at the request of Lt. Mark Knight of the sheriff's department, Jeffrey Kercheval of the Western Maryland Regional Crime Lab examined the basement apartment where Justice lived with his mother.

Bingaman and Justice's mother, Ashley Myers, had been alone with Justice the night Myers discovered the baby felt cold, had a bump on his head and was unresponsive.

Myers ran to her mother, who tried to elicit a response from Justice and then called 911.

"I kept screaming his name over and over, holding his little hand," Dorothea Myers testified Tuesday morning.

While Johns Hopkins doctors were caring for Justice in Baltimore, Kercheval collected evidence, including a blanket and two shirts that Bingaman had worn and Justice had vomited on, the forensic scientist testified Tuesday.

During a tense exchange with defense attorney Scott Rolle, Kercheval testified that he sent nothing for DNA testing and didn't fingerprint anything because nothing was deemed "significant."

No objects in the apartment appeared to have been used to inflict trauma on the baby, Kercheval testified.

Aggressive interview

Investigator Kenneth Barnhart of the sheriff's department testified Tuesday about his two visits to the basement apartment on Jan. 5 and about an interview with Bingaman. On Jan. 7, the day after Justice was pronounced dead in Baltimore, Barnhart interviewed Bingaman for about two hours. The interview got aggressive at points because of Bingaman's continued denial, Barnhart testified.

Prompted by Rolle, Barnhart read from portions of the interview transcript. Bingaman said, "I never shook the baby," "Sir, I didn't do it, I loved that kid," and "I would never be pissed at Justice," Barnhart testified.

According to the transcript, Myers was alone with Justice twice shortly before the baby was taken to the hospital, Barnhart testified.

Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. is presiding at the trial.

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