MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Markeise Kardell Caldwell is visibly shaken and can be heard fighting back tears as he talks to a police officer following the death of his then-girlfriend’s child in May 2018.
“I hurt my baby,” he said off camera in police body camera footage shown to the jury in Caldwell’s capital murder trial.
Prosecutors used their opening statement to portray the defendant as a violent man who severely beat 4-month-old Kendrick Cole and then tried to cover it up. Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Louis Walker told jurors that the defendant hit the child on May 3, 2018, at Azalea Point Apartments while the child’s mother was at work.
Caldwell, 29, did not seek medical treatment, Walker said. He added that the boy was not taken to Providence Hospital until three days later. He said the child died in a helicopter being taken to the University of South Alabama Hospital.
“Caldwell hit him, repeatedly punched the 4-month-old child and slammed him against the footboard of the bed several times,” said Walker.
Defense attorney Bucky Thomas said in his opening statement that his client is “not this noisy killer that the state wants you to believe” but a man suffering from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a robbery and shooting in 2014. He said prosecutors will not be able to meet their burden of proving Caldwell intended to kill the child.
“It’s not evidence presented to you that he woke up and decided, ‘I’m going to kill that kid,'” he said.
Thomas told jurors to closely scrutinize his client’s demeanor when they watch video of the police interrogation.
“He’s frantic when he’s talking to detectives,” he said.
At one point, Thomas said, Caldwell told investigators: “The demons are chasing me.”
After a week, prosecutors and defense lawyers on Monday finally agreed on a jury to hear the first death penalty case in Mobile County since the COVID-19 pandemic. The jury of nine men and seven women comprises four alternates.
Walker told jurors they would hear testimony that Kendrick’s older brother, Kendall, was also abused.
Walker said jurors will see a text message Caldwell sent the boys’ mother telling her Kendrick fell off the bed and hit his head. Defendant gave police a similar version of events on May 3, 2018, telling them that Kendall had pushed his brother out of bed.
Later, Walker said, Caldwell changed his story and confessed. An autopsy showed the child suffered a fractured skull, the prosecutor said.
“He was repeatedly assaulted by a grown man,” he said. “The defendant repeatedly smashed him against a bed floorboard.”
Testimony resumes on Tuesday.
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