MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Markeise Kardell Caldwell can be heard fighting back tears as she talks to a police officer following the May 2018 death of her then-girlfriend’s baby.
“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 opening statements 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 the Azalea Point Apartments while the child’s mother was at work.
Caldwell, 29, did not seek medical attention, Walker said. He added that just three days later, the boy was taken to Providence Hospital. He said the child died in the helicopter that took him to the University of South Alabama University Hospital.
“Caldwell hit him, punched this 4-month-old child multiple times and slammed him against the foot of the bed multiple times,” Walker said.
Defense attorney Bucky Thomas argued in his opening statement that his client is not “this callous killer the state is trying to make you believe,” but a man suffering from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a 2014 robbery and shooting. He said prosecutors would fail to meet their burden of proving Caldwell intended to kill the child.
“It’s not going to be evidence presented to you that he woke up and decided, ‘I’m going to kill that kid,'” he said.
Thomas told jurors to scrutinize his client’s demeanor when they watch the video of the police interrogation.
“He’s frantic when he talks to the detectives,” he said.
At one point, Thomas said, Caldwell told investigators, “I’m being chased by demons.”
After a week, prosecutors and defense attorneys finally agreed Monday on the jury that will hear the first death penalty case in Mobile County since the COVID-19 pandemic. The jury of nine men and seven women has four alternates.
Walker told jurors they will hear evidence that Kendrick’s older brother, Kendall, was also abused.
Walker said jurors will see a text message Caldwell sent to the boys’ mother saying Kendrick had fallen off the bed and hit his head. The defendant gave the police a similar version of the events of May 3, 2018, saying that Kendall had pushed his brother off the bed.
Walker later said Caldwell changed his story and confessed. An autopsy revealed the baby suffered a fractured skull, the prosecutor said.
“She was punched multiple times by a grown man,” he said. “The defendant repeatedly hit her against the floorboard of the bed.”
Testimony will resume on Tuesday.
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