FORT WORTH -- An Arlington man was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for shaking his 3-month-old daughter so hard last year that she died 17 days later of brain injuries.
Jurors deliberated for nearly eight hours over two days before recommending the sentence for Michael Victoria Jr., who pleaded guilty Wednesday to knowingly causing serious bodily injury to his daughter, Trinity, on Jan. 28, 2009.
Victoria, 26, asked the nine-woman, three-man jury to decide his punishment, which ranged from five to 99 years or life in prison for the first-degree felony. Because he had no prior felony convictions, he also was eligible for probation.
Jurors began deliberating Thursday morning after a one-day punishment hearing in the 372nd District Court. Wisch imposed the sentence..
During closing arguments, defense attorneys Leon Haley and Mary Panzu asked jurors to consider Victoria's entire life as a father who attended school and worked to support his three children -- his girlfriend's daughter and two they shared.
Haley and Panzer asked jurors to grant Victoria probation or no more than five years in prison.
But prosecutors Eric Nickols and Rainey Webb said Trinity's death was not an accident. They said he lied to police, medical personnel and the baby's mother about his actions for more than a day. Even then, he minimized what he did, they said.
Nickels told jurors that anything less than 20 years in prison was "unconscionable."
During the hearing, Victoria testified that his girlfriend was the primary caregiver for their baby, but that he frequently fed, diapered and played with Trinity.
That all changed last year when Victoria, frustrated by the baby's crying, picked her up and shook her _ so violently, doctors said, that she died 17 days later of brain injuries.
"It's all my fault," Victoria testified Wednesday. "I was just trying to calm her down. She was yelling and I shook her too hard."
But detectives testified that Victoria's admission that he shook his daughter came only after he had told police and medical personnel several versions of how the baby was injured, they testified.
As the baby lay dying in the intensive care unit of Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Detective Margie Almy said Victoria continued to insist that, at most, he rocked Trinity up and down to calm her down.
Even after he admitted that he shook his baby, he downplayed how hard he shook her, demonstrating in a videotaped police interview and later with a doll in the courtroom a seemingly mild shaking.
But two doctors, including a child abuse specialist, testified that only violent shaking -- unlike what Victoria demonstrated -- could have caused the brain injuries that killed her.