During the trial, jurors watched the tape of Jonathan Lamar Perry telling detectives how he beat his girlfriend's little boy to death, but they still deliberated almost three days before convicting him Tuesday of second-degree murder.
One of two jurors interviewed after the verdict said the panel first had to get past the disturbing nature of the charges – a 6-foot-3, 270-pound man's assault on a boy who was barely half his height and a sixth his weight. Then, she said, they had to make sure they came to a conclusion for the right reasons.
"That's one of the reasons it took us a while," said the juror, who declined to give her name. "We wanted to make sure we were making our decision on the facts and not our emotions."
Perry, 29, sat still at the defense table while the 10-woman, two-man jury convicted him on all three counts in the complaint filed as a result of the July 21, 2008, killing of 4-year-old Jahmaurae Allen. Besides second-degree murder, jurors also found him guilty of a fatal assault on a child under the age of 8 and also with child abuse likely to produce great bodily injury in another attack on Jahmaurae's younger brother, who was 3 at the time.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"They worked hard and they came up with a proper verdict," Deputy District Attorney Jeff Ritschard said of the jury's findings.
Assistant Public Defender Mickey Sampson disagreed. Sampson's defense confirmed that Perry had assaulted the child, but the lawyer argued his client did not intend to kill the boy and that he did not realize the probable consequence of the physical beatings would be death.
"I think it's a mistake and unfortunate," Sampson said of the verdict. "I don't think he exhibited a willful and conscious disregard for human life as required (for a murder conviction), and I think there was a serious causation issue for count two."
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd G. Connelly scheduled Perry's sentencing for April 25. Perry faces a term of at least 26 years to life.
Perry had recently moved in with Jahmaurae's mother, Tiffany Lacy, before the fatal assault. The night it took place, she was at the hospital with the younger brother over injuries authorities also attributed to Perry.
Lacy, who testified for the prosecution, earlier pleaded no contest to charges of child endangerment by leaving her son with Perry. She is to be sentenced Friday.
According to Perry's own statement in the interview with Sacramento County sheriff's detectives, he said he had twice thrown the 3-foot-7, 42-pound boy into a wall, cracking Jahmaurae's skull and causing his fatal injuries. The slams bracketed a round-house punch to the boy's midsection that caused even more massive internal injuries.
Perry told detectives he got mad at Jahmaurae because the boy had wet his pants and refused to go to bed.
"I feel that justice has been served for Jahmaurae," said Detective Brian Shortz, the lead investigator on the case who was in the courtroom Tuesday for the verdict.
Shortz said the boy died "at the hands of somebody reacting violently over a mundane, day-to-day child-raising issue."
The detective said Perry suffered from low self-esteem resulting from his status as an unemployed man who stayed home and baby-sat while his new girlfriend was working and going to school.
"No excuses," Shortz said. "He lost it."
The two jurors interviewed after the verdict said there was no disagreement about what took place inside the Oakhollow Drive apartment in North Highlands where Perry killed Allen. But they said the jurors needed to let each other work through the elements of the case individually before reaching a consensus.
"We all did what we were supposed to do, which was to keep an open mind and make a decision," the jury forewoman said. "There were people who didn't agree on everything, but we all could agree on the important stuff."
Jahmaurae's death was one of four child killings that took place in 2008 in families that were being monitored by the county's Child Protective Services agency. The issue was explored by a series of articles in The Bee that prompted a county grand jury investigation. The probe outlined a decade of CPS shortcomings.
None of the CPS issues came up during the trial.