TAMPA — A Hillsborough County jury returned guilty verdicts Thursday against a man charged with aggravated child abuse and first-degree murder in the death of his 10-month-old son.
Each time prosecutors told jurors that Jovan Blackmon killed his baby, the Tampa father shook his head no in court. But he couldn't explain at his trial this week what caused the head trauma that contributed to Demetrius Blackmon's death.
"You don't take away someone's liberty because he told you he was with the baby when he went into distress," defense attorney Theda James said during closing statements.
Witnesses testified that Blackmon, 31, didn't like his youngest son, whom he referred to as a "motherf-----" on the last healthy day of the boy's life, July 26, 2005.
It took jurors about two hours to reach their verdict. The conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Blackmon is "the mildest person you can think of," James said in her closing.
"Mr. Blackmon may talk like a sailor, but that doesn't mean he's a killer," she said.
Blackmon testified that he made certain remarks to annoy his sisters, including one about not liking the baby because the baby didn't like him. After a friend testified to seeing Blackmon hold a belt over the child's head when making that comment, Blackmon said he was just playing around.
Demetrius was the youngest of three sons Blackmon shared with longtime girlfriend Sonya Hannor. Prosecutors argued that Blackmon injured the baby after Hannor had fallen asleep.
Blackmon said he went to check on the boy and found him having trouble breathing.
"There was absolutely no reason for this man to sneak into the room, hurt his baby and then bring the baby to his girlfriend," James said.
Doctors said the child was brain dead when he arrived at the hospital. The defense argued that the baby could have sustained injuries earlier in the day when he was around a group of other children playing.
An associate medical examiner testifying for prosecutors said the baby had internal and external bleeding, which may have been caused by forceful shaking but definitely not an accident.
Kevin Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.