By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — A Clayton County jury took about two hours Thursday to find a Newnan man guilty of killing his baby son in January 2012.
Ryan Russell Edwards, 35, was found guilty on all counts except one of child cruelty in the death of Mikkah Brown, 1. Judge Albert Collier sentenced Edwards to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 120 years, said Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.
“It feels good,” said Lawson. “I’m glad for that little baby.”
Jurors got an insight Wednesday into Edwards’ mentality through the testimony of the toddler's brother.
Edwards chose to not take the stand and his public defender didn't put up evidence. Lawson and Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers rested the state's case Wednesday.
Jurors began deliberating the case at 2 p.m. Thursday and returned with a verdict about 4:15 p.m.
Malakai Brown was 12 when his baby brother died. Jurors watched the boy's recorded interview with Clayton County police Detective Sgt. James "Mike" Watson conducted the day the baby was rushed to the hospital with fatal injuries. According to previous testimony, Malakai Brown wasn't aware during the interview of how serious his brother was injured. The baby was on life support for three days before his mother, Toni Brown, made the painful decision to remove him from machines.
Prosecutors said Malakai Brown was the only witness to the events that led to his brother's death. He told Watson he came downstairs to get a drink of water and to investigate hooping and hollering noises he could hear Edwards making. Edwards was baby-sitting the boys and Toni Brown's daughter, Bryoni, while she worked.
"Mikkah had something around his neck and his dad was swinging him around like a rag doll," said Malakai Brown. "I didn't see what was wrapped but Ryan was holding it in back like super tight. It looked like he was seriously choking. He was swinging him around so fast, I couldn't see what it was around his neck."
At that moment, Edwards noticed the boy had come downstairs and was looking at the baby, he said.
"He looked at me looking at Mikkah and said, 'Aw, he's all right,'" said Brown. "But the look on my brother's face was like, 'Can you please help me?' He wasn't crying."
Brown said Edwards downplayed the incident to him but the boy returned upstairs to bed with only one thought on his mind.
"I said to myself, 'Mom needs to know about this,'" Brown told Watson. "I told her as soon as she walked in the door."
Brown told Watson he didn't ask Edwards about what he witnessed.
"I was scared of him," he said. "I was afraid of what he might do to me. He punched me once but that was because I didn't do the dishes. That was a couple of years ago."
Toni Brown testified Tuesday that Edwards tried to "toughen up" the baby.
"He said he didn't want Mikkah to be a sissy, a mama's boy," she said. "I thought he played too rough with him."
Malakai Brown told Watson the same thing.
"His dad rough-housed with him too much," he said. "He'd hit him in the belly and up here. To me, it looked like Mikkah was really being abused. Ryan used to take his knuckle and push it hard into Mikkah's temple. If he cried, Ryan would tell him to shut up."
Watson asked the boy if he could think of anything else that might help with the investigation.
"I am trying to not think about it at all," said Brown. "The more I think about it, the angrier I get and the more worried I get, so I try to not think about it."
Other witnesses Wednesday included the baby's pediatrician who testified he never showed signs of intentional abuse and if he had she would have been legally required to report it. A Clayton County police crime scene investigator testified to collecting evidence from the Brown apartment, including items with vomit from the baby's playpen.