Hung jury declared in baby's death

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2010 - 10:46 AM

Jurors couldn't reach a verdict in trial of North St. Paul man accused of killing his girlfriend's 9-week-old baby.

The trial of a man charged with killing a 9-week-old baby in his care -- the baby he considered his own -- ended in a hung jury Saturday night.

Louis D. Jones was on trial in Ramsey County District Court. The jury received the case Friday morning and, at 7 p.m. Saturday, it informed the judge it was unable to reach a verdict.

Prosecutors had argued that Rhania Jones was a healthy, happy baby until Feb. 27, 2009, when she was taken to the hospital with bleeding in her brain, retinal hemorrhaging and brain swelling. She died on March 4. The cause of death was from complications from nonaccidental abusive head trauma, a homicide, an assistant county medical examiner ruled.

Defense attorneys said physicians, surgeons and law enforcement rushed to the erroneous conclusion that Rhania was the victim of child abuse.

"There is evidence of a birth injury," attorney Carole Finneran told the jury in her closing argument Friday. "There is no evidence of a crime."

Jurors began deliberating at 11:30 a.m. Friday on the sole charge of second-degree unintentional murder. They deliberated until 9 p.m. and resumed work at 9 a.m. Saturday. Defense attorneys and prosecutors will meet Monday with Judge Michael Monahan to discuss what happens next.

Jones, 26, began dating Rhania's mother, Rebecca Shaw, while she was pregnant. Although the baby wasn't his biological child, she had his last name and he promised to raise her as his own. The couple lived in North St. Paul.

Shaw, 25, who has two sons, ages 5 and 10, returned to work full time when Rhania was 4 weeks old.

Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992

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