The state rested Wednesday afternoon in the trial of Jackey Bostain, the 27-year-old Drew County man charged with first-degree murder and alternative first-degree battery in the February 2011 death of his 8-week-old son, Ridley.
The infant died of a closed head injury and had several healing broken bones, leading medical professionals to suspect child abuse. Bostain was charged with his son’s death following a year-long State Police investigation, but his attorney, Sara Hartness spent the last two days trying to poke holes in the state’s case against her client, implying that perhaps it was the infant’s mother, Jessica Morris that caused the injuries that led to his death.
Ridley was first taken to the hospital on February 2, 2011. Doctors suspected the baby had viral meningitis but later determined it was a viral infection and gave him antibiotics. His fever subsided and he was discharged on February 6.
The infant began running fever again after he was released from the hospital. On February 8, at 4 a.m., Morris woke Bostain to say she was going to Walmart to purchase Tylenol, leaving the baby in his care. She returned home to an unresponsive baby and Bostain telling her that something was wrong. She testified that she called 911 and began CPR on the infant.
The baby was transported by ambulance to Drew Memorial Hospital then transferred by helicopter to Arkansas Children’s Hospital where he remained until his death on February 16.
During cross-examination of the state’s witnesses, Hartness questioned them about the Morris family’s recording of conversations and hiring an attorney for Morris, potential litigation against Arkansas Childrens Hospital, Morris’ dependency on her parents, her anxiety issues, why she made so many phone calls during her trip to Walmart, and what was the nature of those phone conversations.
Asked why her parents retained an attorney, Morris told Hartness it was for a potential malpractice suit against Arkansas Children’s Hospital, not to defend her of potential child abuse charges.
At some point, the Morris’ family began recording conversations. One of those, heard by the jury this week, was recorded at Arkansas Children’s Hospital on February 8, after doctors told the family that Ridley had brain trauma.
In the recording, the Morris and Bostain families are heard discussing the care Ridley received at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, suggesting that perhaps he was not properly treated for meningitis and that led to the brain trauma. They also suggested that the hospital was trying to cover itself by pointing the finger at Ridley’s parents.
“They basically said (either) me or my wife shook him and caused the bleeding in his brain,” Bostain is heard saying on the recording. “He’s been sick since he left here, crying in his sleep. To the best of my knowledge, he had a seizure and I shook him to get him to wake up and we (administered) CPR.”
Later in the recorded conversation, Bostian said the hospital was trying to get him to “go against my wife” saying that she has mental problems. “She has anxiety, but she doesn’t have mental problems,” Bostain said.
Asked about her anxiety issues, Morris told Hartness she is not under the care of a psychologist but she has panic attacks and has taken prescribed anxiety medication since she was 11 years old. The medication was prescribed by a doctor at the Rice-Lewis Clinic in Little Rock. The clinic specializes in psychiatry.
Questions about Morris’ anxiety disorder continued with former State Police investigator Clayton Moss, the lead investigator on the case.
Noting that the Morris family provided Moss with most of the documentation in the case and how closely he worked with the Morris family throughout the investigation, Hartness asked Moss if he had requested a subpoena for any possible psychiatric records for Morris.
He said he did not.
Responding to a question from 10th Judicial District Chief Deputy Prosecutor Frank Spain, Moss said there was nothing in his investigation to indicate those records were necessary.
The jury heard another recorded conversation in which Bostain told Morris and her parents the only time he knows of Ridley ever getting hurt was when he fell off a sofa while he was in his care.
It was at that point that Morris apparently turned on her husband. Her parents told him to give them the keys to his vehicle and house and have his parents pick him up. Bostain’s father later testified that he picked his son up from the parking lot of the Little Rock hotel where the Morris family was staying while Ridley was at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and Bostain’s mother later testified that was when she realized her son would be blamed.
When questioned about her dependency on her parents, Morris conceded that her home and car were in her parents’ name and Ridley’s insurance coverage was provided by Medicaid.
Later, Bostain’s mother testified that while she was proud that her son and former daughter-in-law had such a nice house and vehicles, provided by Morris’ parents, she was also concerned because they didn’t have to buy or want for anything, it was simply given to them.
Hartness also spent quite a while questioning Morris about phone calls she made during her 4 a.m. trip to Walmart to buy Tylenol. Morris made about a dozen phone calls between 4:01 a.m. and 4:47 a.m. The first call was to her mother, who instructed her to purchase Tylenol, and the last was the 911 call after returning home and finding Ridley unresponsive. She also called Dr. Gary Shrum, who told her to take the baby to the emergency room; her mother-in-law to tell her Ridley had a fever; a friend; a cousin; more calls to her mother; and some she couldn’t recall. She said she made some of the calls seeking prayers.
Medical professionals testified about Ridley’s injuries.
The medical examiner testified that a fall off a sofa would cause bruises but not broken bones. He said the cause of death was a closed head injury that he believes was the result of blunt force trauma. He listed the manner of death as homicide.
Dr. Jerry Jones, an Arkansas Children’s Hospital pediatrician specializing in at risk children, testified that Ridley’s fractures were consistent with child abuse in that his leg injury is one that is often the result of “yanking.”
Jones said Bostain told him that he shook the infant trying to revive him and demonstrated for Jones with a tissue box the degree of shaking that occurred. Jones described it as moderate to vigorous shaking. He said he was also told the baby’s head once bumped the wall while on the changing table but he couldn’t recall which parent told him that.
Others testified about whether the fractures could have been caused during medical procedures in transit to the hospital.
An EMT testified that an intraosseous bore was done to start the IV line but it would not have broken the foot, nor would it have affected the infant’s leg or collarbone. However, Dr. Chris Martin, the emergency room physician who saw the baby at Drew Memorial Hospital, said it is possible that an intraosseous puncture can cause a fracture in an infant’s foot but not a broken collarbone. She said she did not see a head injury.
Martin also testified that Ridley was severely anemic. “This told me this child had been very ill,” she said.
Asked if she had concerns about possible malpractice since the infant was in the emergency room within 48 hours after he was released from Arkansas Children’s Hospital, she told Hartness she did.
“I had been told the child had been diagnosed with viral meningitis and I was concerned that within 48 hours he was back in ER as sick as he was,” Martin explained.
She said she expected there would be litigation but didn’t think it would be criminal litigation. She said she believed it would have been civil (malpractice lawsuit).
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.