By Daniel Silliman
Makayla Denise Valley was killed because she cried, according to the Clayton County District Attorney's Office.
She was a little more than a year and a half old. Her mother's boyfriend was angry because he was baby-sitting, frustrated that the baby wouldn't stop crying, and then he killed her, county prosecutor John Turner told a jury, during opening arguments Wednesday afternoon.
Turner showed the jurors the little girl's photo, and in it, Valley is smiling, her mouth wide open and her hair up in a tiny-top knot. She's wearing a little pink pajama shirt, with flowers on it.
Then the prosecutor waved a hand at Philanders Lamont Bowie, the 27-year-old accused of killing the little girl in the flowered shirt, and Turner told the jury exactly how he believes it happened.
"He picked her up," Turner said, "and he threw her into a bouncy chair. He threw her into that chair so hard -- repeatedly, and slammed her into that chair. That's what he said he did! That caused her death."
Bowie, a Louisiana man, who wanted to be a nurse, is on trial for felony murder, malice murder and child abuse in the 19-month-old's July 6, 2005 death. He was with Valley for five hours before she died of a ruptured liver. When police found her dead that day, she was wearing nothing but a bloody diaper and a broken, yellow earring.
Bowie reportedly told police he was "overly aggressive" with Valley, and repeatedly threw her into a bouncy chair. Police and prosecutors have called that a confession, and want the 27-year-old to spend the rest of his life in jail.
As Turner introduced the prosecution's case to the jury of nine women and five men, he relied heavily on Bowie's statements to police, characterizing the alleged confession as critical to the case.
"The evidence that's going to prove him guilty is going to come out of his own mouth," Turner said. "The bottom line is, he says he was already mad when [Valley's mother, Candace Jakes] called him, and he didn't want to be a baby-sitter. In fact, you'll hear him say, see how many times, 'I ain't no baby-sitter.' So he came there with an attitude. He was mad and he didn't want to baby-sit and I would suggest to you that that was what set the scene for what happened."
Bowie's attorney didn't deny Bowie said that, about tossing the baby into the bouncy seat, but said the autopsy showed that wasn't how the child died.
"It's medically irrelevant," said Steve Frey, defending Bowie. "I'm not going to say that child's death is anything less than horrific, but, ladies and gentleman, he's not guilty. It's time to let him go home."
Frey told the jury, during opening arguments, that Bowie said he got "overly aggressive" because he was covering for his girlfriend, because "he was goofy about her." But then the police detectives just took that story and ran with it, ignoring the fact the autopsy report didn't confirm anything the 27-year-old said.
"What bouncy seat?" Frey asked. "That didn't kill this kid. This kid got punched in the gut, with a fist or something. Abdominal trauma. And this child has suffered abdominal trauma well before July 6. Practically, somebody beat the hell out of this kid."
Frey said the critical evidence, in this case, isn't the so-called confession of a simple, unsophisticated boy, but the science of the autopsy. Frey told the jury to look at the evidence from the autopsy, and to ask themselves when the fatal injury occurred.
"If they can't put it within five hours, they can't say he did it," Frey said.
The medical examiner's autopsy report couldn't positively place the liver-rupturing blow within 24 hours or Valley's death, according to Frey. The report also said she'd been chronically abused, and her body had been bruised and battered.
Bowie was just a one-time baby-sitter, and Frey said the ongoing child abuse was never examined, by the police or the prosecutors.
"Philanders never raised a hand at anyone," Frey said. "He never raised a hand at [Jakes'] kids. He never did anything to those kids ... Philanders didn't hurt that baby. Don't put this on him."
The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday morning, as the prosecutors make their case against Bowie. If convicted, the 27-year-old faces a possible sentence of life in prison.