Aaliyah Heard was not quite 11 months old when her June 2013 autopsy revealed bleeding on the brain, hemorrhaging in an eye, facial bruising, a broken collarbone, rectal tearing and cigarette burns on her body — including one the size of a golf ball on the Baton Rouge infant’s upper right thigh.
An East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor told a jury Tuesday that the child’s 30-year-old mother, Ashley Heard, who is standing trial on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to a juvenile, was the gatekeeper for Aaliyah’s safety but failed in that mission.
“This is not merely neglect or failure to supervise. This is criminal neglect. You may even find it was intentional,” Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Barrios said in her opening statement to the jurors.
Barrios noted that the infant’s autopsy also uncovered extensive older injuries that predated those that caused her death.
Heard’s lawyer, Robert Tucker, told the jury that Larry Leflore — described by Barrios as Heard’s boyfriend and the child’s purported father — is the person responsible for Aaliyah’s repugnant injuries and that the child’s mother was dependent on him, feared him and was powerless to stop him.
“The injuries to that baby were not inflicted by that momma,” he said.
Leflore, 28, of Baton Rouge, is charged with first-degree murder and second-degree cruelty. He is accused of hitting the baby and throwing her after she refused to eat grits.
Leflore, who does not have a trial date, has denied striking Aaliyah but was implicated by her older brother.
Barrios said Aaliyah endured unjustifiable pain and suffering that Heard could have stopped.
“She let (Leflore) in the door. She aided and abetted him,” the prosecutor said.
Barrios noted that some of Aaliyah’s injuries, such as eye hemorrhaging, might indicate the infant was the victim of shaken baby syndrome.
“This was not shaken baby syndrome,” she stressed. “It was forceful trauma.”
Heard and one female juror wiped tears from their eyes while Heard’s recorded police interview was played in state District Judge Richard Anderson’s courtroom.
In that interview, Heard told Baton Rouge police Detectives Logan Collins and Kwouska Lee that the large burn on her daughter’s leg was a rug burn — a claim the detectives did not buy.
“I didn’t burn her,” Heard insisted.
Barrios said Heard has two sons, but neither showed any signs of abuse or neglect. The prosecutor said she could not explain why.
“Those other babies didn’t get touched. Just the one that was purportedly his,” Tucker said, referring to Aaliyah as “this person that he didn’t want, that he rejected.”
The state Department of Children and Family Services has said it had no substantiated reports of abuse or neglect before Aaliyah’s death.
The trial will resume Wednesday.