A Tarrant County jury is deliberating whether a Cleburne mother will receive probation or prison time for seriously injuring and trying to kill her 13-year-old son by withholding food and nutrients from him.
Danita Tutt faces five years to life in prison on the injury to a child by omission conviction and two to 20 years in prison on the attempted murder conviction.
She is also eligible for probation on each count, which her supporters have asked the jury to grant her.
The jury deliberated from about 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday before asking State District Judge Ruben Gonzalez to allow them to recess for the day. They will resume deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
In closing arguments Wednesday morning, prosecutors Dale Smith and Melinda Westmoreland asked jurors to protect Colby by sending his mother to prison. They did not ask for a specific prison sentence.
Westmoreland pointed out to jurors that of the 25 witnesses who testified on behalf of the defense in the sentencing phase of the trial, all described Tutt as a good mother and said they disagreed with the jury’s guilty verdicts.
“This is her community. Her community has spoken. They will continue to enable her. They will continue to not protect Colby,” Westmoreland said.
Westmoreland said it is up to the jury to do what the community, Tutt’s family and Child Protective Services failed to do.
“When you try to kill your child. When you deprive him of food, of water. You let his weight get down to 50 pounds at 13 years old, you don’t deserve to walk amongst us. You don’t deserve to be Colby Tutt’s mother,” Westmoreland said.
Defense attorney Mike Ware and Terri Moore said jurors heard from witnesses who know Tutt best.
Ware said Tutt has proven she can abide by the rules in the year and roughly 10 months in which she’s been reunited with Colby at the agreement of Child Protective Services and a Johnson County family judge.
“For the last year and 10 months, the reunification of the family was the absolute right thing to do. We ask you to continue that reunification by giving Danita Tutt a probated sentence.,“ Ware said.
Moore said Tutt is a great mother who was convinced by doctors from Cook Children’s Medical Center and hospice program employees that her son was dying.
“She trusted the hospice people to guide her through it and they guided her with death is coming, death is coming and all she wanted was for Colby to not be in pain,” Moore said.
Moore said neither Tutt nor her sons would benefit from Tutt being sent to prison and that judge can impose probation conditions to ensure Colby is safe.
Smith said the defense is litigating what jurors have already decided with their verdicts.
He said if Tutt is given 10 years or probation, she will spend less time meeting with her probation officer than the jury spent with her in their first week of her five-week trial.
He said Tutt is addicted to the drama and questioned where all her supporters were when Tutt was trying to kill her son in April and May of 2016.
“It wasn’t about the truth. It was about protecting her,” Smith said. “It wasn’t about Colby. It was about protecting her.”