Doctors have offered little hope for 16-month-old Semajj Lewis.
He is legally blind and has remained in a vegetative state since suffering a brain hemorrhage in February 2008. But the child's mother, Shavonna Jackson of Gastonia
, still hopes for the best.
"He knows my voice. He knows when I'm there," she said. "I hope ... I know he's gonna get better
On Wednesday, a Gaston County jury convicted a man for putting Samajj Lewis
in that condition. Ryan Jerel Bratton, 21
, of the 800 block of Barkley St., Gastonia, was found guilty of felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury for hitting the 3-month-old infant on the head while baby-sitting him last year.
Superior Court Judge Richard Boner sentenced Bratton to between seven and nine years in prison following the three-day trial. The jury deliberated for about two hours before finding him guilty
The jury also found an aggravating factor in that Bratton inflicted the abuse on a child so young.
Bratton was baby-sitting the infant in February 2008 while Jackson was at work. Bratton was dating Jackson at the time, but is not the child's father.
Bratton made a frantic 911 call that night and reported he had been feeding the baby when the child began to vomit and then stopped breathing.
"He was panting real hard and couldn't breathe," Bratton said to the dispatcher that night. "I put him on my shoulder, patted him on the back to try and get some air out of him and he just went limp like a dead dog."
When the dispatcher began to give Bratton instructions for delivering CPR, he said ‘Man, this is too much for me.' Then he began to cry.
The baby suffered a brain hemorrhage and was first taken to Gaston Memorial Hospital, then to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
Police soon charged Bratton with hitting the child, after which he gave a written and videotaped confession, before later pleading not guilty.
Bratton's initial trial last week resulted in a hung jury, with the votes 10-2 in favor of a guilty verdict.
During this week' trial, prosecutor Bill Stetzer pointed to Bratton's own admission of guilt, when he said he had become frustrated with the baby for crying all the time.
Bratton testified in his own defense this week, and said he had confessed earlier because he felt he had to take the blame.
But medical evidence presented at the trial showed that the infant's head trauma was inflicted within 24 hours of Bratton reporting it. Prosecutors said that proved he was the only person who could have been responsible.
Bratton's defense attorney, Calvin Hamrick, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Semajj Lewis is now being cared for at Holy Angels, a Belmont facility that caters to children and adults with mental retardation and physical disabilities
. Jackson, who also has a 4-year-old daughter, said he is receiving good care there.
"I get to come up any time I want to," she said.
Semajj eats through a feeding tube. A doctor testified during this week's trial that the infant will never recover from the injuries that caused his brain to swell, resulting in tissue damage
Jackson sees the bright side, however.
"He's doing better than he was - a whole lot better," she said. "He still ain't going to be able to walk or talk or do anything like that as of now.
"They say he's going to be a vegetable all his life, but I'm praying he'll pull up out of it a little bit."
Jackson said she is happy with Wednesday's ruling against Bratton.
"I'm glad it got resolved," she said. "He got what he deserved."