Several jurors in the 15th state District Court put their hands over their mouths or cast their eyes toward the floor Wednesday as prosecutors showed autopsy photos of 18-month old Gabriel Taylor Goshorn. The graphic photos and description by the man who conducted the autopsy weren’t the only gut-wrenching things the jurors faced as they continued along the path toward finding justice for the toddler.
Micah Troy Duncan’s defense attorney Garland Cardwell told jurors in his opening statements that Duncan intends to take the stand and tell them his side of the story.
Jurors, however, didn’t have to wait for the defendant to testify to start hearing from him. Prosecutor Kerye Ashmore called Gabriel’s mother, Meagan Goshorn, to the stand to introduce taped conversations she had with Duncan in the days after the toddler’s death.
But first jurors heard doctor after doctor talk about the severity of the skull fracture
Gabriel suffered on Sept. 9, 2010. They also heard doctor after doctor say it was one of the worst of such injuries they had ever seen
and that it was completely inconsistent with a claim that the baby injured himself by falling over or falling from a high chair.
Dr. Matthew Cox, the clinical director of Children’s Medical Center of Dallas’ Referral Evaluation of At Risk Children program, said Gabe’s injuries “(were) among the most severe head injuries I have seen,” even though he routinely looks at head injuries suffered by children.
When asked by defense attorneys if the injury could have been the result of a fall the child suffered several days earlier from a bed, Cox said it was not medically possible that Gabriel would have sustained that injury in a simple fall or that he would have lived for ten days after the injury.
Cox said Gabriel’s brain was swollen and already starting to die
when he arrived at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. He said, in addition to the blow that cracked Gabriel’s skull from the base of his head up the back side to the top of his head
, the infant most likely suffered other blows that left him with bruises on the left side of his face
After spending hours listening to doctors and nurses talk about Gabriel’s last hours, jurors finished the day hearing from the person who knew the toddler best, his mom. The 23-year-old told prosecutors she got up on that fateful day in September of 2010 to find Duncan already up cooking pancakes. She admitted to smoking marijuana with Duncan before the children got out of bed. Then she said, she and Duncan argued over getting Gabriel up or letting him sleep. The mother testified she wanted to let her son sleep because he was teething and cranky, but Duncan wanted him up. She said she gave Gabe some pain reliever to help with the teething.
Ashmore asked her what her son was doing the last time she saw him conscious
, and the air in the courtroom seemed to evaporate as the young mother said, “He was crying.”
Meagan Goshorn said her son routinely cried when left alone with Duncan, and it had gotten so bad that she was planning to leave Duncan
. She described being gone just 15 minutes or so and then returning to the apartment complex to find an ambulance waiting there and Duncan running toward her.
Meagan Goshorn said she got into the ambulance with her son. She said she was in still in her pajamas hours later when she made the trip to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. She stayed there with her child, she said, until he died.
The young woman then identified for prosecutors voices on several taped conversations. They were played for the jury. In one of those conversations, she repeatedly begged Duncan to tell her what happened to her son.
“I did not beat our boy,” Duncan said.
“That is not your boy. That is my boy,” she replied in a voice that had an icy tone.
“Micah, just tell me what happened. You owe me at least that much,” she said to him.
His reply was lost in sobs as he repeatedly begged her to come to the jail to see him.
“I can’t come look at you,” she replied.
“I swear to God I didn’t hurt him. I would never,” Duncan said and then cried again.
“I have to go to the funeral home today to make arrangements for my son,” she replied.
While Duncan seemed close to telling the baby’s mother what happened in some parts of the conversations, in others he remained focused on his own problems.
In one conversation he said, “They had to take me and put me in a cell by myself” after media reports surfaced about the charges
“I am in here by myself. I never hurt Gabe. I tried to save him,” he said.
Later in the conversation, he said, “I wanted to be there. I am supposed to be there at the hospital with you.”
When she talked about getting off the phone, Duncan’s voice broke and he asked her to send him photos of his two daughters.
“I have to go, I have to go to the funeral home,” she said again.
“You can’t keep the phone on your ear? I only got a couple of minutes left,” he replied.