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Man accused in baby's death won't testify

March 24, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- The man accused in the death of a 2-month-old Jefferson County boy in December 2007 told the presiding judge in his trial on Tuesday that he would not testify in his own defense.

Michael Todd Cox, 41, is being tried on a charge of child abuse by a custodian resulting in death and could receive a minimum of 30 years in prison if convicted.

Colton Lee James died Dec. 10, 2007, at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Jurors seated for the trial in the Jefferson County Courthouse likely will begin deliberating today after receiving instructions from 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge David H. Sanders and hearing closing arguments from attorneys handling the case.

Defense attorney James T. Kratovil said Sophia Adams, who was testifying Tuesday afternoon when a legal argument arose over her testimony, was his last witness.

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Washington, D.C., Deputy Medical Examiner Lois Goslinoski, the last witness to take the stand for the state's case, told the jury Tuesday morning that a forensic examination revealed the boy's skull was fractured on the left side by blunt force.

The fracture of the orbital roof of the skull and related trauma found in the left temple and left frontal lobes of the boy's brain caused swelling that led to the widest separation of cranial bones she and her supervisor had ever seen, said Goslinoski. She said she had performed 1,880 autopsies and her supervisor was on the job for 19 years.

The brain injuries caused the child to slip into a deteriorated medical condition that required life support and that eventually led to him being brain dead, Goslinoski testified. At 2 months old, a child's cranial bones are not yet "fused" together, she explained.

Jurors were shown examiners' photographs of the infant's brain, which showed "dark pooling" of blood in two areas in the area.

Goslinoski said there was very little hemorrhaging on the right side of the brain, which led the medical examiner's office to conclude that the boy's head was struck by an object that was not sharp.

If the child had been moving when he received the head injury, Goslinoski said the brain would also have been injured on the opposite side of the initial impact because of traumatic movement inside the skull.

Exactly when the boy was injured isn't clear, but Goslinoski estimated it would have taken three to four hours before "definitive symptoms" started to show because of the skull's fragile growth stage. The skin also is soft and very elastic at that age, she said.

Neuropsychiatrist Lawson F. Bernstein Jr., an expert witness for the defense, agreed that blunt-force trauma was involved in the child's injuries, but countered Goslinoski's time estimate for symptoms to appear, saying they would have appeared within 30 minutes.

"This is a catastrophic injury," said Bernstein, who endured numerous questions from Jefferson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brandon "Brandy" Sims about his academic credentials and level of expertise in neurology and related fields of medicine.

Bernstein said he had been a contributor for Fox News and Nancy Grace's show on CNN. He said he had treated more than 1,000 patients as a board-certified psychiatrist but had not conducted autopsies in his professional career.

On Dec. 6, 2007, the infant and his older brother were left in the care of Cox while the child's mother, Kathy James, went shopping. James and Cox were in a relationship at the time.

The child's great-grandmother noticed later that day something was wrong with Colton, according to witness' testimony.

Cox was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after he was arrested in 1992 in the death of an 11-month-old girl. The injuries the girl received in that case appear similar to those in Colton's death, Goslinoski testified.

Cox's father, James Cox, testified on Tuesday that his son loved Colton and seemed genuinely upset after receiving a phone call about the child's deteriorated medical condition.

"I'm here to tell the truth," James Cox said when cross-examined about his account of what happened that day.

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