Suspended city officer convicted in son's death Father faces 23 years in prison

April 11, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

A suspended Baltimore policeman was convicted last night of involuntary manslaughter and child abuse in the death of his 19-month-old son in his Columbia home.

Carl William Morris Jr., 34, formerly assigned to the Police Department's Southwestern District, was facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Christopher Andre Morris Jan. 20 after emergency surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Christopher died of uncontrollable bleeding of a major artery in his abdominal area. Major internal organs were also damaged and he had severe bruising over his entire body as well as injuries to his genital area.

Morris told police and doctors that he had found Christopher at the bottom of the stairs in the Columbia home with a carpet steam cleaner on top of him.

"God had his way today," Christopher's mother, 20-year-old Angellette Friend, said of the verdict. "Just knowing that he's going to be in jail is good enough for me."

The jury deliberated 10 hours before reaching a verdict.

Howard County Circuit Judge James B. Dudley revoked Morris' bond and ordered that he be held at the Howard County Detention Center. Sentencing was scheduled for June 11.

Morris was suspended without pay from the Baltimore police force in October 1990 after being booked on assault charges in Prince George's County. Those charges are pending.

Now that Morris has been convicted of manslaughter and child abuse, the internal affairs division of the Baltimore Police Department will complete its investigation and make a recommendation to the police commissioner on final personnel action, said Agent Arlene K. Jenkins, a police spokeswoman.

Assistant Howard County prosecutor Kate O'Donnell said the verdict was "good enough," though she had hoped to see Morris convicted of murder.

He faces maximum sentences of 20 years for child abuse and three years for involuntary manslaughter.

During the seven-day trial, medical experts disputed Morris' explanation of Christopher's injuries, saying they were not accidental and could not have been caused by falling down six carpeted stairs or having a carpet cleaner fall on top of him.

Dr. Charles Paidas, the pediatric surgeon who operated on Christopher, said the fatal injury to the child's abdomen was delivered with direct, substantial force.

"Examples of this are a fist, a foot, a bat, a piece of wood -- not a fall down a flight of stairs," he testified.

Several state witnesses, including emergency rescue technicians, child abuse investigators and a social worker, gave differing accounts of the explanations that Morris had given to them about the injuries.

Ms. O'Donnell maintained that Morris changed his story as he attempted to cover up his role in the death.

Christopher's mother, testifying against Morris, said he lacked affection for their boy.

She said that Morris described the child as a "mama's boy" who was going to grow up to be a "faggot."

"He was kind of hard on Chris, he said he was spoiled," Ms. Friend testified. "He wouldn't play with him, he said he cried all the time."

Dr. John Adams, a pathologist who testified for the defense, agreed that the child's death couldn't have been caused by a fall down the steps, but said that his injuries weren't necessarily consistent with child abuse.

Morris, who testified in his own defense, said that he found Christopher at the bottom of the stairs with the carpet machine on top of him.

He said the child seemed to be all right and sat him down on the living room floor.

He testified that a short time later, he discovered Christopher wasn't breathing and called 911.

Meanwhile, Morris said, he administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the child by hitting his chest and pumping his stomach.

Morris' public defender, Louis P. Willemin, pointed out that no previous charge of child abuse had been brought against Morris, even though Christopher had been living with him for 10 months.

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