Jury gets case of man charged in baby death

Prosecutors say father shook 2-month-old girl

defense points blame at mother

February 07, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

Two months after she was born in 2004, Kaitlyn Grimes stopped breathing while she was at home with her parents. On that point, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree.

Her father is on trial in Baltimore Circuit Court for first-degree murder, accused of battering his daughter and shaking her to death. The father's defense has been to question whether the mother should be on trial instead.

Yesterday, jurors began deliberating the case against Acurtiss Grimes, 26. But the jurors have made it clear through notes to the judge that they have questions about the mother, Kristina Bailin, 27.

This isn't the first time the parents have been accused of harming one of their children, though jurors in Grimes' trial did not hear about the earlier allegation.

A year before Kaitlyn died, Grimes and Bailin were investigated by Baltimore County police in the near-death of their other child. The 5-month-old boy turned blue and stopped breathing for several seconds, according to police records.

A Baltimore County prosecutor later said that because several people "had access to the baby during the time frame he was injured," charges could not be filed.

Social services returned the boy to his parents, and the family moved from the county to a small second-floor apartment the 2700 block of Christopher Ave. in Northeast Baltimore. They added a fourth member, Kaitlyn.

About 10 days before Kaitlyn died, Bailin returned to work, Assistant State's Attorney Mary-Ann Burkhart said, leaving Grimes in charge of child care. "The last two weeks of [Kaitlyn's] life were times filled with pain," Burkhart said in her closing argument.

By the time the paramedics were called June 20, 2004 - Father's Day - the baby had suffered many injuries, Burkhart said. Medical investigators found five new rib fractures and four more than a week old. The baby was covered with bruises and had a cut on her chin, according to testimony.

Detectives interviewed Bailin and Grimes. Both waived their right to an attorney and gave statements. They said they were the only people home with their two children the afternoon Kaitlyn stopped breathing.

During closing arguments yesterday, defense attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell said that after talking to the parents, detectives "basically tossed a coin" to decide which one to charge.

According to charging documents, both Grimes and Bailin said the baby seemed fine when she was put down for a nap on the living room couch about 1 p.m. The two told investigators that Bailin retired to the bedroom to nap, and Grimes stayed in the living room with the children.

Bailin awoke about 2:15 p.m. and showered. About that time, Grimes told police, he noticed that the baby had spit up on the couch and was not breathing.

Grimes told police he "began shaking [his daughter] real hard." He said he did this because "once when their son stopped breathing he did that and it worked," according to the charging documents.

Addressing jurors in her closing, Burkhart said medical evidence showed that Grimes shook the baby first, and then she stopped breathing. After Grimes' arrest, child protective services removed the older boy from the home, and he has not been returned to his mother.

Grimes' trial began Jan. 29. Over the days of testimony, opening statements and closing arguments, defense attorneys repeatedly asked about Bailin. One defense witness, the defendant's mother, testified that Bailin had told her she suffered from post-partum depression and had thoughts of harming her little girl.

The references to Bailin prompted jurors to also inquire about her. On Friday, they sent a note to the judge: "Is the mother of Kaitlyn Grimes (the baby) going to testify in this case? And if no, why?" "Why" was underlined three times.

Later that afternoon, the jurors questioned whether Bailin had been treated for depression.

Prosecutors chose not to call Bailin. Defense attorneys planned to call her, and even sought a "body attachment," a court-order that she be brought to court, in handcuffs if necessary.

Bailin was in the courthouse Monday and yesterday, but she never took the stand.

Perhaps influenced by Circuit Judge Roger W. Brown's ruling Monday that they not question Bailin about her mental health, defense attorneys never called the woman.

Yesterday, she sat on a courtroom bench during closing arguments in the case. Jurors occasionally stole glances at her as she listened to Ravenell pose a question to jurors:

"Ask yourselves, where is the voice of the mother in this case?"

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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