High court upholds murder conviction for beating death of infant

8:34 AM, Jun 3, 2013   |    comments
(AP file)
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ATLANTA -- The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld a murder conviction of Howard Holloman for the beating to death of his girlfriend's 6-month-old baby in 2009 in Clayton County.

Justice Harold Melton wrote in the court's opinion, released Monday, that evidence "was sufficient to enable the jury to find Holloman guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt."

The court said that in August 2009, Holloman and his girlfriend Eva Rodney were staying with his brother in Clayton County, along with 6-month-old Nathaniel Price and Rodney's 9-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.

The record said:

Holloman's brother also had children, and when his wife was scheduled for surgery, Rodney arranged to stay with a friend to lessen the pressure in the home. She took the two older children with her, leaving 6-month-old Nathaniel with Holloman at his brother's home. The next morning, Rodney called Holloman to check on Nathaniel and Holloman said he was refusing his bottle. She then returned to the home of Holloman's brother where she found Nathaniel in the basement, in his swing, with a pacifier in his mouth. Thinking he was asleep, she picked him up and tickled his chin, but he was unresponsive, according to prosecutors. When she pulled the pacifier from Nathaniel's mouth, he made a gasping, gurgling sound and Rodney noticed that his skin was blue. Rodney screamed, handed the baby to Holloman and ran to call 911. The 911 dispatcher instructed Rodney to lay Nathaniel on the floor and begin CPR, which she did. When the baby started making choking sounds, Rodney became hysterical, and Holloman took over. When emergency medical services arrived, Holloman was standing at the door by the carport and pointed them downstairs. They found Rodney crying hysterically over the baby, who was lying on the floor. The EMS personnel determined Nathaniel was not breathing, had no pulse and his extremities were cold to the touch. They transported him to Southern Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

According to the medical examiner, the baby had extensive injuries, including multiple severe tears of his liver and a tear to his heart. The baby also had a broken vertebra, which was consistent with the level of force exerted in a car wreck. Other injuries, the medical examiner said, were consistent with those caused by direct blows to the head and body. The medical examiner said the baby's death was caused by blunt force trauma to the torso.

In his 2011 trial, Holloman was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and cruelty to children, and he was sentenced to life in prison. His appeal was based on claims that the trial court gave the jury incomplete instructions and that other errors were made during trial. Holloman also said his trial attorney was incompetent and ineffective, which he says was a violation of his constitutional right to effective counsel.

The justices upheld Holloman's conviction in a unanimous decision.

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