BARSTOW The fate of a 23-year-old Barstow man charged with torturing his 6-week-old son to death now rests with a jury.

Attorneys made their closing statements today in the trial of Davon Johnson, 23, who is charged with willful cruelty to a child resulting in great bodily injury or death and torture in the death of his seven week-old son, Zyeir Johnson, who died at Loma Linda Medical Center on July 13.

Two portraits were painted of Johnson by attorneys: Deliberate baby torturer and mentally ill and inexperienced father.

District defense attorney Sean Daugherty said that Johnson willfully tortured his infant son in an attempt to take out his frustration about the child's crying, while defense attorney Paul Henderson said Johnson suffered from schizophrenia and was an inexperienced father unaware he was hurting his child.

Daugherty pointed to the wide variety of injuries on Zyeir's body and the fact that Zyeir was in Davon's sole care before he was hospitalized as evidence to convict Davon on torture charges.

"The defendant intended to cause cruel or extreme pain," said Daugherty. "You have evidence that (Zyeir) was brutalized. A doctor testified that a chart (showing injuries) would be completely shaded in."

Throughout the trial, jurors were shown graphic images of a number of injuries to Zyeir's body, both internal and external.

Daugherty said that Zyeir's injuries cannot be confused with injuries caused by an inexperienced parent mishandling a baby.

"Sometimes babies get dropped or fall but they don't end up at Loma Linda (Medical Center) and they don't end up dead," said Daugherty. "The explanation that Davon was just too rough is not reasonable."

Defense Attorney Henderson said that Johnson was a diagnosed schizophrenic off of his prescribed medication who owned up to handling his child too harshly after initially lying to police about Zyeir falling from a bed. Henderson also speculated that healing injuries on Zyeir's body may have been caused by relatives who cared for the infant in the past.

Henderson said that Davon was unaware of the severity of the injuries to his son and may have been having a psychotic episode while the injures were inflicted.

"It is reasonable to conclude that (Davon) was having a psychotic episode when this happened," said Henderson.

In his rebuttal, Daugherty said the case is not a "not guilty by reason of insanity" case and that there is no evidence that Davon was having a psychotic episode when Zyeir was injured.

If Davon is convicted, he could face 25 years to life in prison.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or adome@desertdispatch.com