The Edmond Sun

Local News

January 29, 2013

Sides differ on blame in toddler's death

OKLAHOMA CITY —  

A prosecutor said Rico Berry is legally responsible for the injuries that caused an Edmond toddler’s death; Berry’s attorney said he did not cause them.

On Tuesday in the court room of Oklahoma County District Judge Glenn Jones, a jury consisting of eight men and four women was sworn in and heard opening arguments from both sides. Two jurors, both women, were sworn in as alternates.

In October 2009, Oklahoma County DA David Prater charged Rico Antwoine Berry, 28, of Edmond, with first degree murder and child neglect in the death of Jolen Babakhani, 2, of Edmond. 

The state medical examiner ruled Jolen’s death was a homicide, resulting from head trauma, causing a subdural hematoma. A subdural hematoma is a type of blood clot or clots that often result from a skull fracture.

During instructions, Jones told the jurors that the defendant’s plea of not guilty requires the state to prove each element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant’s presumption of innocence continues, he said. Guilt or innocence will be determined from the evidence.

Berry, who has pleaded not guilty, is being represented by attorneys Mark McCormick and James Hughes. Assistant District Attorney Susanne Carlson and ADA Gayland Gieger are representing the state.

THE STATE’S CASE

During the state’s opening statement, Carlson told the jurors Jolen was the light of his mother’s life. Oct. 13, 2009, was probably a normal day in the world, but it wasn’t for the Babakhani family, Carlson said. That day, their world changed forever, she said.

Sara Babakhani, Jolen’s mother, was a nursing student at Langston University, where she would usually take her son to daycare, Carlson said. That day, he wasn’t feeling well so she left him with Berry, her boyfriend of about 10 months, Carlson said. She had some comfort with him from seeing him interact with his daughter and Jolen, she said. At about 8:30 a.m., she left for school. It was a Tuesday, when she had a 9 a.m. class. 

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