Despite pleas for mercy from Justin Whited himself, his mother and his attorney, Alcovy Circuit Court Judge Eugene Benton Wednesday sentenced Whited to life without the possibility of parole in the 2016 murder of his infant daughter, Dinah Paige Whited.
In asking for parole for her son, Kimberlee Page said her son is a good father.
“I am asking for parole for my son. He is not the monster he is portrayed to be. He is a good father and a good man,” she said.
Whited himself asked the judge for mercy.
“Please have mercy on me. I promise to be a better person. I promise to do my best if given parole,” Whited said.
Attorney Anthony Carter said Whited is a “bright young man and he can do right.”
“The jury’s verdict shows that he did not intend to do harm,” he said, adding he could make the world a better place.
However, Benton was not swayed and sentenced Whited to Life without the possibility of parole for the felony murder conviction. Both felony murder convictions were merged for the purposes of sentencing. Whited was also given an additional 20 years for the aggravated battery and cruelty to children, to run concurrently with the life sentence. He was not convicted of malice murder.
A jury of 12 returned a guilty verdict in four of the six charges against Justin Lee Whited in the death of his daughter, including two counts of felony murder. He was found not guilty of malice murder and one of the counts of cruelty to children. He also was found guilty of aggravated battery and one count of cruelty to children. The two felony murder charges will be combined for sentencing. He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He will be sentenced next week, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.
With closing arguments completed by 10 a.m. Thursday, the jury was set to begin deliberating in the murder trial of Justin Lee Whited, the first of the two defendants charged in the 2016 death of their infant daughter, Dinah Paige Whited. The baby’s mother, Jamie Whited, will go on trial later. Alcovy Circuit Court Assistant District Attorney Cliff Howard said at this time her trial date has not been set.
In his closing, defense attorney Anthony Carter asked the jury to consider reasonable doubt when making their decision as to the guilt, or not, of Whited. He made the argument that the suggestion that a stroke, introduced by his rebuttal medical expert, was possible to cause the damage in the brain of the 7-week-old on April 23, 2016, that eventually led to her death on Aug. 8, 2016. He also asked that they consider the charges of malice and felony murder in the context that it meant that Whited had deliberately done something that would knowingly lead to the death of her daughter.
Howard, in his closing, however, refuted both those arguments, saying that malice murder meant that he did “with an abandoned and malignant heart, do something that led to the death of his daughter.”
Howard went over the events on the morning that the baby was admitted to the hospital, pointing out that both the mother and father had said “they woke up.”
“You heard him say, ‘we all woke up. She went to make her a bottle,'” Howard said, adding it was just before Jamie Whited returned with the bottle some 5 – 7 minutes later, that the baby stopped crying and it was when she entered the room that she noticed the baby was struggling for breath. “Whatever he did to her that day was painful. She was 7 weeks old, she can’t ask for anything.”
Howard said it was likely that he just wanted the baby to stop crying so he could go back to sleep, and whatever he did to stop her from crying is what caused the damage that eventually led to her death.
In the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Justin Lee Whited, 25, in the 2016 death of his infant daughter, Dinah Paige Whited, medical experts from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s pediatric unit at Egleston testified to her injuries. According to Dr. Matthew Paden, a pediatrician in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at CHOA, the 7-week-old infant had suffered several broken bones in the days or weeks leading up to a traumatic brain injury that result in her being life-flighted to the hospital on April 23, 2016.
On that morning, her parents reported that she had woken up crying for her bottle and had suddenly stopped crying before her mother returned to the room with the bottle to find the infant struggling to breath. Between then and her eventual arrival at Egleston by life-flight, Paden testified that Clearview Regional Medical Center staff and Egleston’s transport life-flight crew advised that the infant had gone into cardiac arrest two or three times and been revived before arriving at the NICU unit at Egleston, where she had “coded” again and was able to be revived.
Dr. Lora Darrisaw, medical examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, testified that, based on autopsy results, the cause of death of the infant after being removed from life support on Aug. 8, 2016 was homicide. She said she based that on the fact that the manner of death was complication from the traumatic brain injury that she received on April 23, 2016 and that injury was caused by another person. She said she did not see the previous broken bones during the autopsy, but that would not be unusual since there was time during the baby’s almost 3 1/2 months on life support for the bones to heal. The injuries reported by Egleston to be at various stages of healing at the time that the baby arrived at the hospital included six broken posterior ribs, bilateral clavicle and bilateral humerus breaks. Paden reported that a tibia and a femur bone showed signs of fracture two weeks later, something he said was not unusual as in the case of an infant it sometimes takes longer for a fracture to be visible. That is the reason for running further scans two weeks later.
Defense attorney Anthony Carter called one expert witness to refute some of the medical testimony, a Dr. Joseph Scheller who was a neurological imaging specialist from Baltimore. He said it was his opinion that the images of the baby’s brain indicated to him a more likely scenario of a stroke and not a traumatic brain injury. He didn’t really have an adequate explanation for the prior injuries except that they could possibly be the result of an older child or a dog jumping on the child. The Whiteds have another child who was 2 years old at the time and both parents had suggested to doctors and investigators that it was possible that he could have been rough with his sister. Alcovy Circuit Court Assist. District Attorney Cliff Howard, however, got Scheller to admit on cross that it could “absolutely” just as likely be the result of abuse and the bleeding around the brain could have resulted from violent shaking of the infant, although he remained adamant that he didn’t believe that was the case with Dinah.
Most of the testimony the day before had been the events that led up to the morning of April 23 when Dinah had began struggling to breath. Several witnesses, including Jamie Whited, had testified that the baby had appeared completely normal until the time that she stopped crying that morning. Neither she or any other witness reported seeing any other signs of abuse prior to that date except for a knot on the baby’s collar bone. Jamie Whited had taken her to the doctor on that occasion, two weeks earlier, and had been told that there was nothing wrong.
Whited chose not to testify and both the prosecution and defense will begin Wednesday with closing arguments before giving the case to the jury to deliberate.
Walton County Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton is hearing the cases. Whited is charged with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated battery and two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree. His wife, Jamie, faces similar charges except that she is facing murder in the second degree instead of malice murder. She is also charged with two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated battery and two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree.
The saga began on April 23, 2016 when officers with Monroe Police Department responded to the Whited residence in response to reports of a 2-month old baby being unresponsive. The infant, who became known as “Baby Dinah,” was transported to Egelston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, where she has remained on life support for three months before being removed on Aug. 16. By that time, her father, Justin Whited, was already in jail facing charges of aggravated battery and cruelty to children and her mother was charged with cruelty to children. Although incarcerated at the time, they were allowed to say goodbye to their daughter at the hospital prior to her passing. The charges were then upgraded to felony murder.
Monroe Police Department released a statement at the time that read, “The brutal injuries that Dinah suffered over time, along with the lack of medical attention, ultimately lead to her death. Both Justin and Jamie Whited have been charged with felony murder; they remain incarcerated in the Walton County Jail.”