A judge rejected a claim Tuesday by an attorney for condemned child-killer Dacarius Holliday that an East Baton Rouge Parish jury was “duped’’ last year into believing 2-year-old Darian Coon was sexually abused when he was beaten to death in 2007.
Richard Bourke, who is handling Holliday’s appeal, argued to state District Judge Wilson Fields that the defense has evidence that contradicts trial testimony that Coon was sexually assaulted.
Prosecutor Dana Cummings countered during a 90-minute hearing that the state stands by its trial witnesses and added it is a “tossup’’ to say which is more despicable: sexual abuse or “just plumb torture.’’
“What this man did is despicable. It is horrid,’’ she told the judge.
In the end, Fields denied Holliday’s motion for a new trial.
Bourke said afterward the case now goes to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The high court automatically reviews all death penalty cases in the state.
Holliday, 34, of St. Louis, was convicted March 14, 2010, of first-degree murder in the fatal beating of Coon — his Baton Rouge girlfriend’s son — on May 14, 2007.
The same jury recommended Holliday die by lethal injection. Fields formally sentenced him July 7, 2010, to death.
An autopsy revealed Coon suffered 75 contusions to his body and lacerations to his liver and kidney, among other injuries.
Prosecutors argued at Holliday’s trial that the killing merited the death penalty because the victim was under the age of 12 and because Holliday was engaged in the commission of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile.
Several months before the trial began, prosecutors dropped aggravated rape as one of the aggravating circumstances in the case.
Bourke complained Tuesday about a prosecution witness who testified at trial that Coon’s body showed “unquestionable sexual abuse.’’
Bourke, who alleged the state used sexual abuse as a “sword’’ against Holliday, called sexual assault of a child “morally condemned behavior.’’
“The state can’t say the issue of sexual abuse wasn’t raised,’’ he argued. “Once that was injected there was no going back.’’
Cummings countered that aggravated rape was withdrawn as an aggravating factor because the state could not prove the specific cause of the injury to Coon’s anus.
“I never abandoned sexual abuse,’’ she insisted. “I wasn’t barred from mentioning sexual assault.’’
Cummings labeled as a “ludicrous explanation’’ Holliday’s statement to police that he put his finger in Coon’s anus to check his temperature when he found him unresponsive.
Prosecutors contend Holliday killed Coon because the toddler urinated on himself.
Holliday had moved in with Coon’s mother about six weeks before her son’s death.
Amanda Coon testified at Holliday’s trial that May 14, 2007, was the first day she left her son alone with Holliday at her Dalton Street home.
Holliday initially told police that after Coon wet himself, he forced the boy to sit on the toilet for two hours, then put him in a bathtub. Holliday told police he fell asleep and the toddler must have injured himself in a fall.
The next day, the same day the autopsy was performed, Holliday called police and gave a second statement, saying he disciplined the child by hitting him with a fist.
Holliday told police he may have “misfired’’ while hitting the boy on the arms and legs but insisted he was not a “baby-killer.’’
Jurors heard both of Holliday’s videotaped statements during the trial.