Dad said girl fell to her death off a toy box, but doctor said it looked like she fell from a building
- Written by Tasha Tsiaperas Tasha Tsiaperas
- Published: 04 August 2018 04 August 2018
Lancaster, TX - The capital murder trial for a Lancaster man accused of killing his 19-month-old daughter in 2014 ended in a mistrial Friday after jurors couldn’t agree on a verdict.
Daniel Andre Thomas, 38, was accused of beating his daughter, Aaliyah, so severely that her liver was split.
A Dallas County jury listened to two days of testimony before beginning deliberations Thursday morning.
State District Judge Carter Thompson declared the mistrial Friday afternoon after jurors said they couldn’t reach a consensus.
One juror, John Fullinwider, said he believed that Thomas caused his daughter’s death but didn’t believe he was guilty of capital murder.
“I wanted a conviction, but I’m satisfied with a mistrial,” Fullinwider said. “We in good faith played our role in the system.”
No date had been set for a retrial, and Thomas remained in the Dallas County Jail.
Fullinwider, a co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, said the prosecution failed to prove the capital murder case, but he also believed the defense was weak.
He said the jurors agreed that Thomas was at fault but couldn’t come together on whether he was guilty of capital murder or a lesser charge of injury to a child causing serious bodily injury.
After Aaliyah’s death, Thomas was fired from his job with the city of Dallas. He had worked with children at a recreation center.
Defense attorney Paul Johnson said in court that many people still support Thomas. Several co-workers said they would testify as character witnesses if there were a sentencing portion of the trial.
“If he’s found guilty, a jury never gets to hear about Daniel Thomas,” Johnson said during the trial.
If Thomas had been convicted of capital murder, he would have received an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Thomas called 911 shortly after midnight on July 20, 2014, saying Aaliyah was “not responding.”
“She was playing, and she fell and hit her side,” Thomas told the 911 operator. “I just thought she was tired.”
Paramedics got to the Lancaster home and tried to revive the child, who was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Thomas told paramedics that she had been alive and awake about 20 minutes before he called 911, according to court testimony.
Hospital workers found that the toddler was covered in bruises. There was a large bruise on her forehead and other bruises on the bridge of her nose and chin. She had at least eight bruises on her abdomen and bruises on her buttocks and lower back.
The autopsy found that Aaliyah also had healing rib fractures.
“It’s something that I’ve never seen before,” testified paramedic James Sain. “I did everything I could to help this little girl. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Aaliyah died of organ failure caused by a liver laceration, and the Dallas County medical examiner ruled her death a homicide.
Johnson argued that the death was an accident from roughhousing.
Thomas said that Aaliyah was playing the afternoon of July 19, 2014, on top of a wooden toy box when she fell and hit her side. The unpainted box sat in front of the jury during the trial.
An emergency room doctor testified that the amount of bruising and severity of injuries were more likely to have come from a fall from a building, not a toy box. And typically toddlers don’t bruise both sides of their body during a normal day, said Dr. Stephanie Quarles.
Medical examiner Elizabeth Ventura said the liver laceration was caused by blunt force trauma, similar to the type of injuries she sees in high-speed car crashes.
He testified that Aaliyah’s liver was so badly injured that even if a surgeon had been standing next to her, the damage could not have been repaired.
“There’s no fixing this in the operating room,” Ventura said.
Source: Dallas Morning News