Murder trial begins with photographs of dead toddler

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | 2:57 p.m. CDT; updated 11:12 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009
Keyonda Lumpkins, left, pauses during her second-degree murder trial at the Boone County Courthouse on Tuesday. Lumpkins is on trial for the June 2008 death of her 2-year-old son, Cortez Johnson.

COLUMBIA — A jury saw photographs of 2-year-old Cortez Johnson’s body today — the first day of testimony in the second-degree murder trial of the child's mother, Keyonda Lumpkins.

The photos showed burns and cuts on the child’s face, neck, head, torso and genitals. But what the jury saw was only a portion of 200 injuries that were inflicted upon the toddler’s body before he died on June 25, 2008, according to testimony by Carl Stacy, Chief Boone County Medical Examiner.

Horace Johnson, the father of the toddler, is also charged for second-degree murder of his son. His trial is scheduled for December.

The jury of seven men and six women had little visible reaction to the photographs, though one juror asked to be dismissed even before the photographs were displayed on a poster board in front of the jury box. The juror told Judge Gene Hamilton he didn't think he could endure hearing testimony in the case, which had just begun.

Defense attorney Kevin O’Brien, meanwhile, challenged the admission of every one of the photos as well as the legitimacy and expertise of some of the witnesses, but Hamilton overruled his objections.

The medical examiner, who testified about the injuries that eventually killed Cortez, said that when the child was brought to the emergency room at University Hospital, the staff could not resuscitate him. He must have been dead for about four to five hours before arriving at the hospital because his body was cold and stiff, Stacy testified.

According to a nurse's report, the toddler was also malnourished. At 2 years old, he weighed about 21 pounds, which is below the fifth percentile for weight by age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention index for weight by age.

A sister and two close friends of Lumpkins' co-defendant and boyfriend, Horace Johnson, testified that they saw Lumpkins hit Cortez on several occasions.

Irma Johnson, a sister of Horace Johnson, testified that she saw Cortez sleeping on the hard floor of a closet in Lumpkins' house with a sheet over him.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight had already laid the groundwork for portraying Lumpkins as an abusive mother, telling the jury in his opening statement that they would see video of Lumpkins admitting that Cortez Johnson "deserved what he got."

But O’Brien's statement offered the opposite view — that Lumpkins acted as Horace Johnson’s captive and could not escape from his mental and physical abuse to her and her child, whom he referred to as "Bucky." 

The trial is expected to continue through the end of the week.


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joe withheld September 1, 2009 | 8:57 p.m.

If found guilty, what sort of a sentencing does Ms. Lumpkins face?

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