A 13-year-old girl accused of beating a 4-year-old boy to death has been cleared of all charges, ending a lengthy and complicated case that dragged on for more than a year.
Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy found the teenager not guilty of the charges she faced, including second-degree murder, child abuse leading to death, involuntary manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment.
The judge's decision Thursday came after a neurosurgeon testified that the victim had suffered from more than one brain injury, leaving doubt as to when the fatal injuries occurred.
The girl, whom The Sun is not identifying because she was charged as a minor, was relieved by the decision that came after a trial that lasted nearly a week in juvenile court, said her attorney, Mary Jo Livingston, an assistant public defender.
"Her first words to me were, `Does this mean the judge knows I'm not guilty?'" Livingston said.
But the finding was devastating for the relatives of the 4-year-old victim, Randy Allen Weeks Jr. His mother, Pamela Mackall, left the court in tears, said Assistant State's Attorney Janet S. Hankin.
"I'm disappointed, of course," Hankin said. "I did not believe that justice has been done for the 4-year-old, but I respect the judge's opinion. The case had to be tried because everything pointed to her."
The slender and quiet suspect appeared in court every day, but left when the medical examiner testified. She responded meekly to Gordy's salutations and hugged her attorney at the close of each day. When questioned, she answered with monosyllabic responses.
The case began in October last year, when the Weeks boy was found beaten in his home in the 2000 block of N. Bentalou St. A medical examiner ruled that he died of blunt force trauma.
Two weeks later, the girl was charged in connection with the death. She had been given significant care-taking responsibilities and was watching the child that day.
Her father had previously dated the victim's maternal grandmother, Sheila Prophet.
Mackall took the girl in during July 2004 because she was living in a car with her father, Prophet has said in previous interviews.
About 10 people -including four doctors - testified at the proceeding. Prophet testified but Mackall did not.
Livingston said she believes the case was won largely based on the testimony of Dr. Joseph Ciacci, the neurosurgeon who treated young Weeks. Ciacci testified that the boy suffered multiple injuries, which could have been inflicted days earlier.
Livingston also attacked the medical examiner's office, contending that it failed to provide an objective review of the evidence, siding with the Police Department and prosecutors.
Conflicting statements given by the girl and recorded by police were played in court.
But Livingston said the statements helped prove that the girl initially lied to police because she was afraid of Mackall.
State law stipulates that a child younger than age 8 should not be left with a caretaker under 13, but charges were never filed against Mackall.
Mackall faces proceedings to determine whether she will lose custody of her other two children.
Meanwhile, the 13-year-old girl remains in an emergency shelter under the care of the Department of Social Services until the court decides the best placement for her, Livingston said.
Her mother, who attended some of the court proceedings, lives in Illinois. Her father, who attended the entire trial, lives in Baltimore. For the past year, the girl has lived in a shelter outside Baltimore, during which time she completed the seventh grade.
Said Hankin, the prosecutor: "It's a sad and disturbing case, no matter how you look at it."