The Mississippi Court of Appeals this week affirmed the conviction of a Hancock County man who was found guilty in 2017 for the capital murder of his two-year-old daughter.
After a three-day trial, Oren Lewis was convicted on June 16, 2017, for the death of his 23-month-old daughter, Ma'Leah Grace Bush. Ma'Leah was injured on Aug. 25, 2013, and died two days later at Children's Hospital in New Orleans. Lewis was not indicted for the crime until 2015.
During the trial in Hancock County Circuit Court, jurors heard a recording of the 911 call reporting Grace's injuries; and testimony from a Waveland police officer, a paramedic and the emergency room nurse at Hancock Medical Center who treated the girl when she was first brought in.
All three witnesses said the child's injuries were severe and the result of obvious abuse. Lewis's explanation for her injuries during trial was that he "heard two thumps … went into the room (and) found her kind of half-on and half-off the bed."
After the jury found Lewis guilty, Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Bourgeois sentenced him to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole
On June 23, 2017, Lewis filed an unsuccessful post-trial motion requesting an acquittal or, alternatively, a new trial, before taking the case to the state Court of Appeals.
According the the appeals court's decision handed down on Tuesday, "Finding no error, we affirm Lewis's conviction and sentence."
In the affirmation, the court wrote, "We also acknowledge that, under the plain language of (Mississippi statutes), Lewis’s capital murder, or homicide, conviction made him ineligible for parole. As such, the circuit court statutorily had no choice but to sentence him to life without eligibility for parole. We therefore find no abuse of discretion in the circuit court’s sentence of life without eligibility for parole without a jury hearing."