After two stunning Criminal Appeals argued by James M. Crawford, Mark was finally declared not guilty of murder and child abuse on April 1, 2022, after being earlier convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life nearly a decade ago in 2012.
During his first trial in 2012, Mark was convicted of second-degree murder and child abuse in the death of his girlfriend’s 17-month old baby Jayden and was sentenced to 25 years to life. The prosecutor called on the Orange County medical examiner as an expert witness, who testified that he observed severe complex skull fractures and extensive hemorrhaging within Jayden’s scalp. He further determined that those injuries were caused by external impact, concluding that Jayden had suffered at least two blows to her head. The prosecutor called a second expert witness, a specialist in child abuse pediatrics emergency medicine, who said that the toddler’s injuries were inflicted by a hard object. Largely based on the testimony of these experts, Mark was convicted on all charges.
Mark maintained his innocence and hired James M Crawford to lead his appeal.
Criminal Defense Attorney Crawford poured through the initial trial’s records and did extensive interviews, research, and strategy for the evidentiary hearing in 2016. He concluded that Mark had not received effective representation by his first lawyer who had failed to exhaustively challenge the prosecution’s version of events, including a failure to provide expert witnesses to counter the prosecution’s. Crawford’s commanding cross-examination of the original defense attorney during the habeas proceedings sealed the deal—the murder conviction and life sentence were vacated, and the court ordered a retrial.
During the retrial in 2022, Crawford called his own expert witnesses to explain that the toddler had sustained accidental head injuries in the week before Jayden’s death, not attributable to Mark. He also called a neurologist, pediatric pathologist, and a general pathologist to testify that “second impact syndrome” can cause severe injury even from a short fall. Crawford showed pictures of the living room and showed that the police had rearranged the furniture where the baby had fallen. He also re-enacted the incident in the courtroom with the real living room furniture, a baby dummy, and Mark describing what happened.
The Final Verdict
The expert presentation by one of Orange County’s finest Criminal Defense & Appeals Attorneys helped the jury see the true nature of the event—Mark was not responsible for Jayden’s death. It was the result of a tragic and unforeseeable accident.
Mark was fully exonerated and released after ten years in prison.