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Attorneys pick jury in infant murder trial

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Questioning potential jurors in the trial of a man accused of brutally beating a baby to death, attorneys asked about television tastes and childcare.

John Turner, the county's senior prosecutor, asked every potential juror about their hobbies, and then asked each one if they liked "CSI," the TV show about crime scene examiners who use science to solve crimes.

"You understand that's a lot of Hollywood hype?" Turner asked the potential jurors. "You understand that's Hollywood, and not reality? Do you promise, as a juror, to leave anything you might have seen or heard out of the courtroom, and look at the facts of this case?"

Prosecutors have worried about the so-called "CSI effect," in which juries have held onto a standard of proof that is impossible in the real world, but seen nightly on the popular franchise of crime dramas.

In the murder trial of 27-year-old Philanders Lamont Bowie, the understanding of forensic science by jurors could decide the verdict.

Prosecutors are expected to call a medical examiner who will testify that science shows Bowie, without a doubt, brutally beat 19-month-old Makayla Denise Valley to death.

The defense, lead by attorney Steve Frey, is expected to counter with another medical examiner who will testify that Bowie, scientifically, was not the person who killed his girlfriend's infant daughter.

The jury must evaluate the testimony of the dueling medical examiners.

Frey signaled the challenge to jurors with the question, "Have any of you ever gotten conflicting opinions from doctors? In other words, you saw more than one doctor and got more than one opinion?"

Bowie was watching the little girl for about five hours when she died in 2005, according to court records. Valley's liver ruptured. Conflicting reports have placed the time of injury at no more than 30 minutes before death and at about 30 hours before death.

One clears Bowie, and the other condemns him.

The 27-year-old allegedly confessed, telling the police he threw Valley into her bouncy seat because she wouldn't stop crying. Charges against him were previously dismissed by the district attorney's office, though, when prosecutors thought science cleared Bowie. In the dismissal, the district attorney's office called Bowie the "least likely suspect."

Frey's questions to potential jurors pushed into the territory of other possible suspects, including the dead baby's mother, Candace Jakes.

The Jonesboro attorney asked the potential jurors questions about how they take care of their own children. He asked if they would ever leave a child with someone they didn't know, or didn't totally trust; have they ever taken a child to the doctor or the emergency room; have they ever known a child they believed to be suffering from ongoing child abuse?

Valley, according to court records, was chronically abused, before she died. Her body was marked with multiple burns, bruises and abrasions, and though she was only 19-months-old, several bones had been broken over the course of her life.

Frey is expected to try to use that alleged history of abuse to blame the child's death on the mother, who has not been charged with murder. Turner is expected to use that same evidence to condemn Bowie, asking the jurors to find him guilty of brutally beating the baby, before she died.

Opening arguments begin on Wednesday morning.

If convicted, Bowie faces a possible life sentence.