Jury Reaches Verdict in Foster Child Death Case
A jury in Catoosa County has reached a verdict in the case of Clara Edwards, who was charged in connection with the death of her foster child, Saharah Weatherspoon, finding her not guilty of malice murder, and guilty of cruelty to children.
The charge of felony murder was declared a mistrial, because the jury was deadlocked 10 to two. We do not know which way they were leaning.
Attorney William Mills is not involved with the case. He says that ruling is unusual.
"It is an unusual ruling," Mills said. "I haven't seen it specifically in my cases and I haven't really heard of it happening."
However, Mills says he has seen the jury get confused on the difference between murder charges.
"If the person is engaged in the commission of a felony, and it results in somebody's death, that's a felony murder," Attorney William Mills said. "If a person is intentionally going out to cause a person's death, that's a malice murder."
Edwards will now sit in jail awaiting her sentencing on the cruelty to children charge. That punishment could be anywhere from 5 to 20 years. But that may not be where this case ends.
Mills says it's possible prosecutors will try to indict Edwards on a felony murder charge for a second time, to get a retrial.
Right now, Those involved in the case are under a gag order which bans them from talking about the case. Mills says that's because they may need the evidence again
"The reason a judge would issue it is to keep that evidence in tact and not have it tainted by communication to other parties," he said.
In 2013, Clara Edwards told police Saharah Weatherspoon fell down a wooden staircase the night she brought her to the hospital unconscious.
One day after Clara Edwards took Saharah to the hospital, Edwards was interviewed by the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department.
In a video of the interview, which was played in court Thursday, Edwards told officers, "I would never hurt that child."
She told police her relationship with her two-year-old foster child was growing before she died on New Years Day 2014.
"We are bonding to the point where I am important to her," Edwards told police. "I would never do anything to hurt her."
She then described Saharah as a "faller-downer," saying she'd once asked Sahara's doctor for a helmet to keep her from getting injured. She also said it was noted by another doctor that Sahara bruised easily, possibly because of her thin skin.
Tuesday as prosecutors wrapped up closing arguments, they made claims Sahara's death may have been a result of an understaffed, underfunded DFACS system.
The case as led to a larger investigation into a backlog of DFACs cases in Georgia: