7 testify in second day of Brownwood teen's capital murder trial
ABILENE, Texas - In the second day of a Brownwood teen's capital murder trial, Brown County prosecutors called seven people to testify on Wednesday, including a witness who described the defendant as violent.
Jekaris Bryant, 19, is accused of killing his 28-day-old daughter Breyla Ann Bryant. Brown County District Attorney Micheal Murray said in his opening remarks on Tuesday the baby died of "non-accidental" trauma after being violently shaken.
On Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Elisha Bird called Charla Airheart to testify. She was Breyla's great aunt.
She described Bryant as a violent person, telling the court he pushed her niece, Makahla Brewster, down a flight of stairs. Brewster is the mother of the deceased child.
But Jud Woodley, Bryant's lawyer, rebuked those claims after Airheart admitted to not being present to witness the incident.
Murray also called the doctor from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy.
Dr. Tasha Greenberg told the court Wednesday she ruled Breyla's death a homicide due to injuries on her neck, head, and ribs. She said Breyla's injuries are consistent with trauma involving the movement of the head and pressure to the chest.
Greenberg also said there was no evidence the baby choked on milk or baby formula.
Bryant claims Breyla was choking on baby formula on Dec. 13, 2015, when he started patting her back and performing CPR.
Woodley said Greenberg wasn't initially asked to look for milk when she received the baby's body.
Another key witness to take the stand Wednesday was Harold Q. Thomas, the detective in charge of the case at the Brownwood Police Department.
Thomas told the court Bryant admitted to killing the baby in an interview. Bryant's defense claims the death was an accident.
Thomas said he arrived at Brownwood Regional Medical Center on Dec. 13, 2015 after Breyla was pronounced dead. Pictures shown inside the courtroom detailed the bruises the baby had along her chest and neck.
Thomas said Breyla's diaper rash was so bad "the baby was bleeding."
He said Bryant didn't appear upset at the hospital, as opposed to Brewster, who was wailing and in tears.
Thomas left the hospital with Bryant and his father, Richard Bryant Sr. They went back to an apartment that Bryant shared with Brewster after obtaining consent from the defendant.
He told the court Bryant ignored his commands of not touching anything, and he was "touching the [baby's] swing and manipulating it."
He also said Bryant never mentioned on Dec. 13 that he spent time alone with the baby until a follow-up interview on Dec. 17, 2015.
Bird asked Thomas what Bryant's response was when he was asked what should happen to the person responsible for this act.
"He said, 'I don't know.' It was an odd response and a different answer than Makahla," Thomas said.
Thomas told the court that Bryant said during the interview he was being targeted because of his skin color. Bryant is African-American and Brewster is white.
Bird also played a phone conversation Bryant had in the Brown County Jail with his family. In the call, Bryant accused Thomas of coercing him to confess.
Thomas disputed those remarks.
The third day of Bryant's capital murder trial will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.