By Daniel Silliman
A Clayton County jury was given two contrasting pictures of a Mexican man charged with molesting and crippling an 8-month-old girl, during attorneys' closing arguments.
Pointing at the accused, prosecutor, John Turner, said Eligio Chia-Duran is "a sadistic, perverted monster."
Calling Chia-Duran "evil personified," Turner summed up the case against the illegal immigrant, Wednesday morning, saying, "The defendant brutally and savagely molested, both physically and sexually, a defenseless and innocent girl."
During the day and a half of testimony, Turner brought in witnesses who said that Chia-Duran battered and molested the 8-month-old daughter of his girlfriend. The baby, who is not being named, was brought to the hospital on Christmas Day, last year, with more than 30 bruises and scrapes covering her body. She had broken ribs, a broken arm, a skull fracture and a broken spine. She had been vaginally penetrated.
The girl, now 17-months-old, and soon to be adopted by an Atlanta social worker, is paralyzed from the waist down, and doctors say she will never walk.
"As an 8-month-old child," Turner told the jury, "she was wearing a diaper. If she lives to be 90, she will still be wearing a diaper, because of what he did."
Defense attorney Stephen Mackie gave the jury a contrasting picture of the defendant, who wore a blue shirt and tie to the courtroom, and listened to the lawyer's arguments through a translator.
Mackie said Chia-Duran is an immigrant, in this country because of the American dream, who is being falsely accused and crushed by the government.
"The powerful government is trying to grind one man under its heel," Mackie said, grinding the heel of his black shoe on the courtroom floor. "You have to look at the evidence without passion," he said. "There's a tendency to see Eligio as the 'Other,' as someone from the outside" and to find him guilty simply because he's not an American.
The jury was not told, during the trial, that Chia-Duran is in this country illegally. Mackie compared the defendant to his own grandfather, an immigrant who didn't speak English, and said that Chia-Duran, like Mackie's grandfather, would "someday be an American."
The prosecution's case was largely based on the testimony of the girl's mother, Fabiola Delgado Mata, who previously pled guilty to a charge of child cruelty, and Chia-Duran's two cellmates, who claimed he had confessed to them in broken English, with the help of a Spanish-English dictionary.
Turner spent a significant portion of his closing argument explaining the validity of circumstantial evidence, and arguing the unbiased honesty of the trio's testimony. Mackie, in turn, spent a lot of his closing argument condemning the three as "crooks," who shouldn't be believed.
"The state's case rests on three crooks," he said. "Three weak witnesses: An abusive mother, a forgetter and a drug dealing liar. That's [Turner's] case."
Mackie claimed his client was innocent, and said the charges against Chia-Duran fall apart because the indictment claims the crimes occurred on Dec. 25, when they could have happened earlier.
"If you find it reasonable to believe that the injuries happened earlier, then you have to find this man not guilty," Mackie said. "If [the injuries] didn't occur on Dec. 25, that's significant. Why? Because other persons could have done this, and did do this, because Eligio did not do this."
In less than 15 minutes, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all three felony counts of aggravated battery, aggravated child molestation and child cruelty.
Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons sentenced Chia-Duran to life plus 40 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence.