State rests in Lewis capital murder trial
By Dwayne Bremer, Staff Writer
Jun 15, 2017, 16:59
The state rested its case Thursday in the capital murder trial of Oren J. Lewis, who is accused of causing the death of 23-month-old Gracie Bush in August 2013.
Thursday's events included testimony from family friends brought Bush to Lewis' home on Aug. 25, 2013; and several medical professionals who examined her in the days following.
Mississippi State Medical Examiner Dr. Mark LaVaughn testified that in his professional opinion, Bush died from "applied-force" or blunt force trauma to the left side of her head.
LaVaughn said he did not believe her injuries resulted from a "simple fall."
"The extent of the injuries would require an extreme amount of force," he said.
LaVaughn did not perform the autopsy on Bush, but rather, reviewed the notes of former pathologist Dr. Paul McGarry, who died two years ago.
At one point, LaVaughn stepped down from the witness stand and stood in front of the jury with a mold of a skull, detailing the injuries Bush had sustained.
Earlier in the day, Louisiana physician Dr. Jamie Jackson testified that she believed Bush was rendered unconscious by a traumatic blow which eventually led to the toddler's death two days later.
"She would have become limp or unresponsive almost immediately," she said.
After the state rested, Lewis' attorney Jim Davis asked the court to issue a directed verdict in favor of his client.
Davis said the state did not prove Lewis caused Bush's injuries.
"This is a circumstantial case," Davis said. "It is not a direct evidence case. There are no eye-witnesses and no confession. I think there has to be something more tying my client to the case."
Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel countered by saying several witnesses testified that Bush was in good health and spirits when she arrived at Lewis' home and that Lewis was the only adult home when the injury occurred.
"The victim was in the exclusive custody of Mr. Lewis," Daniel said. "The oldest child testified that she heard noises consistent with child abuse."
Judge Larry Bourgeois denied the motion to issue a direct verdict and ordered that the trial resume on Friday at 9 a.m.
Bourgeois then allowed the jury to retire and ordered it not to discuss the case with anyone, read any media coverage, or begin deliberating.
After the jury left, Bourgeois asked Lewis to step to the podium where he explained to Lewis that he had the right to testify in his own defense, but that decision was his and his alone to make.
Bourgeois said Lewis did not have to decide if he wished to take the stand in his own defense until Friday.
It is unclear how many witnesses the defense plans to call on Friday.
Check www.seacoastecho.com on Friday for more details on this case.