MCDONOUGH, Ga. — Courtroom fireworks of a slightly different type erupted while the jury continued its deliberation during the Rosenbaum murder trial on Tuesday.
The second day of deliberation began much as the first day proceeded, with the jury sequestered behind closed doors, continuing their work on the 49 counts against the couple accused of killing their foster child.
No questions came from the jury room for the judge before the lunch recess, which differed a bit from Monday, when several procedural questions were presented to Superior Court Judge Brian J. Amero by the jury.
But by mid-afternoon, Joseph and Jennifer Rosenbaum, accompanied by defense attorney Corinne Mull, entered the courtroom, followed a short time later by prosecutors Eddie Chase and Dasha Young.
Judge Amero took his place and it was clear that he was very angry. He called the attorneys forward for a huddled conference away from microphones.
A juror had been approached over lunch by a newspaper reporter.
The judge asked the reporter to identify herself and which newspaper she worked for.
"Alexis Stevens," the reporter said. "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution."
The defense quickly asked for a mistrial, while the prosecution immediately countered, "That's why we have alternates."
The judge considered for a moment.
According to 11Alive's Joe Henke, in the courtroom, the judge asked Stevens if anything of substance was discussed during her encounter with the juror.
She said no.
The judge pointed out that the trial has gone on for nearly four weeks already, and said that the jury should continue their deliberation. He then gaveled the proceedings into recess once again.
A short time later, Judge Amero came back to the bench and asked to speak directly to the juror involved in the incident.
The judge wanted to know if the juror had discussed the case with the reporter.
"No, sir," the juror replied.
The juror told the judge that he was asked how far along they were.
He said that he had answered, "I don't know," and that was all he'd said.
The juror said that he had told the remainder of the jury about what had happened, and they, in turn, had reported the interaction to the bailiff.
Judge Amero, still visibly unhappy with the incident, returned the court to recess.
11Alive reached out to the AJC for a comment on the situation. The paper's editor, Kevin Riley, confirmed they were aware of the interaction and shared a statement on the matter:
"Our reporter told AJC editors that she greeted a juror with 'How’s it going?' She said she was not seeking information about deliberations and that her intent was misunderstood. The judge addressed the matter in court and said the juror could continue to consider the case fairly. The AJC, as a news organization, understands how sensitive jury deliberations are and takes the fairness of trials seriously. We regret this incident."
THE FACTS OF THE MURDER CASE
Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum are accused of killing their 2-year-old foster daughter Laila Daniel in November 2015. They are facing charges related to the abuse of Laila's older sister Millie.
The couple insists that Laila's death occurred while Jennifer was trying to save her life while she was choking on some food. Her injuries on the day she died included a transected pancreas, severe blood loss, broken bones in her arms and legs, bruising on her neck, face, abdomen and legs, and inadequate nutrition.
The prosecutors said Laila's death was the result of a measure of ongoing, violent abuse at the hands of the Rosenbaums.
During their closing arguments, prosecutors delivered emotional closing statements which insisted that Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum would ultimately be held accountable for the abuse to both of the children and Laila's death.
“You’re going to be held accountable for each and everything you did to those children,” prosecutor Daysha Young said, during her closing statement. “You will be held accountable for each injury you inflicted on these children. Forty-nine is too many. But that’s why we’re here.”
Defense attorney Corinne Mull agreed that someone had to pay, but reiterated that the death was the result of an accident.
"Someone has to pay and that’s what this is about,” Mull told the jury. “Someone has to pay but in real life sometimes there are accidents. Sometimes you can’t place fault at the feet of a person or person. And that’s the case here. There was an accident.”
Mull said Laila's injuries were the result of a frantic attempt to save the girl's life by someone who did not know how to properly administer CPR on a child.
"She (Jennifer) was doing anything she could to try to dislodge this chicken and save the girl's life and along the way, inadvertently caused injuries to Laila's body," testified Dr. Kris Sperry, a former medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and an expert witness for the defense.
CHARGES AGAINST THE ROSENBAUMS
The jury has been left with making a decision on each of a total of 49 charges against the couple.
Jennifer Rosenbaum has been charged with:
- 1 count of malice murder
- 3 counts of felony murder
- 16 counts of aggravated assault
- 20 counts of 1st-degree cruelty to children
- 5 counts of aggravated battery
- 2 counts of 2nd-degree cruelty to children
Joseph Rosenbaum has been charged with:
- 1 count of 2nd-degree murder
- 10 counts of aggravated assault
- 4 counts of aggravated battery
- 14 counts of 1st-degree cruelty to children
- 3 counts of 2nd-degree cruelty to children
MAXIMUM POSSIBLE SENTENCES
If convicted on all counts, and sentenced to the maximum possible penalty on each count, Jennifer Rosenbaum would face life in prison plus several hundred years. Joseph Rosenbaum would also be looking at hundreds of years in prison if convicted on all counts and sentenced to the maximum possible sentence on each count, based on Georgia's sentencing guidelines.
PHOTOS: Laila Marie Daniel
DAY FOURTEEN: Awaiting the verdict in the foster parent murder trial