Fort Worth man not guilty of shaking his baby to death

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Ralon Meredith bent down on one knee outside the courtroom after he was found not guilty Monday, sobbed aloud and hugged his mother in jubilation.

“All the glory goes to God,” his mother, Linda Meredith-Garrett, cried outside the courtroom doors.

For a week, prosecutors had been lying about her child in visiting Judge Elizabeth Berry’s court, Meredith-Garrett said. In their opening and closing statements, Tarrant County assistant district attorneys accused Meredith of shaking his 23-day-old daughter with the equivalent force of a drop from a sixth-floor balcony. Prosecutors also accused Meredith of hitting his daughter in the head, causing brain damage severe enough to kill her, his mother said.

“They are supposed to be for justice,” Meredith-Garrett said. “They were trying to convict an innocent man.”

Meredith, 26, of Fort Worth, was charged with murder in connection with the death of his daughter and could have received a maximum of 99 years or life in prison if convicted.

“We’re very glad that Ralon is now able to go back and be a father to his other three children,” Meredith’s attorney Reagan Wynn said after the verdict. “We’re thankful we were able to get the evidence into the hands of people who were able to tell what was really going on with this little girl.”

Akeira Meredith came to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth on May 26, 2009, and was diagnosed with massive brain trauma, fractured ribs and a fractured arm and leg, all at her father’s doing, according to testimony at her father’s murder trial.

Medical personnel and law officers overlooked the less obvious answers defense witnesses brought forward, Wynn said. Wynn presented evidence that Akeira might have suffered from rickets, liver disease or epilepsy, or perhaps all three. But the police took the word of the doctors at the hospital and tied up this case in a neat little bow, Wynn said.

Rickets is a softening of bones due to deficiency or impaired metabolism of vitamin D, phosphorus or calcium, and can lead to fractures and deformity.

The investigators at the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office accepted the conclusions of the doctors and did not do the testing that could have confirmed or refuted the existence of the other medical conditions, Wynn said.

“Sometimes they get tunnel vision,” Wynn said during his closing arguments. “It’s probably easier for them to say that this is child abuse and have a villain than to say that with all our expertise and all our technology, sometimes babies come here and die and there’s nothing we can do.”

Prosecutors contend that the medical evidence presented by Meredith’s attorneys was shaky. Expert witnesses for the defense ignored trauma in the form of tears that allowed blood to flow into the lower part of the head, said Eric Nickols, a Tarrant County prosecutor.

Babies with the type of liver disease the defense outlined are perpetually sick and the mothers who have those babies typically have more than one sick child, Nickols said. Then, there were the defendant’s own words, Nickols said.

“The defense wants to say that Cook’s jumped on the bandwagon because it was an easy call,” Nickols said. “No it’s not. It’s the hard call. Then after all that, you have what Ralon said himself: ‘I didn’t shake her, but if I did, it’s because she wouldn’t stop crying.’”

Defense attorneys established reasonable doubt, said Scott Brown, co-defense attorney.

“The only just verdict is not guilty,” Brown told the jury during his closing statement. “And when you say that, you aren’t saying we’re soft on crime or that child abuse is OK. You’re saying that the state has failed to meet its burden of proof.”

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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