Kylie Mickens, 5, arrived at the hospital in June 2020 weighing roughly 2 pounds more than the day she was born.
Assistant District Attorney Anna Fowler showed pictures to Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller of the 5-year-old Buford girl “looking like a mummy,” emaciated and dehydrated.
“She was admitted to the hospital, at the report of every doctor who saw her, suffering from the worst case of malnutrition and dehydration that the doctors at (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta) had ever seen,” Fowler said.
Kylie weighed less than 6 pounds at birth and under 8 pounds when she arrived at the hospital.
But Kylie’s mother, Porscha Mickens, took the stand as well as a handful of her friends and family members, detailing the five-year struggle to take care of a child diagnosed with the rare 1p36 deletion syndrome.
The syndrome often causes weak muscle tone and brain abnormalities. People diagnosed with it also often suffer seizures and have difficulty swallowing.
After hearing several hours of evidence, Fuller said he believed no prison time was warranted.
Porscha Mickens was sentenced to 20 years on probation after taking a plea deal Monday, April 25, on second-degree murder and child cruelty charges.
“It should go without saying that the court’s sentence does not lessen the value of Kylie’s life,” Fuller said, noting that the second-degree statute is based on criminal negligence. “... Generally speaking, imprisonment is less of a sentence utilized and imposed when criminal negligence is at issue.”
Porscha Mickens was originally charged with felony murder along with her husband, Jerrail Mickens, after their daughter’s death June 8, 2020. Jerrail Mickens died Nov. 27, after a motorcycle crash on Interstate 85 northbound at Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta.
In 2014, the Georgia General Assembly amended the murder statute to include second-degree murder, which is the death of a child in the commission of child cruelty. While a felony murder or malice murder conviction would lead to mandatory life in prison, second-degree murder has a range between 10 years and 30 years.
Fowler asked for a 30-year sentence with 25 years in prison.
“This child starved to death over months and months,” Fowler said. “She was not getting enough food. She was getting no medical care that she needed. And that is why she died, when she did, how she did.”
Mickens took the stand in her defense, describing the days after Kylie’s birth when she was taken to the newborn intensive care unit.
Mickens said she was asked if she wanted to give her daughter up for adoption but declined.
“Why is that?” defense attorney Corinne Mull asked.
“Because I love my baby,” Mickens said.
Mickens and her defense team repeatedly brought up that Mickens had taken Kylie to 14 specialists and also began seeing a naturopathic doctor.
During her earlier years, Kylie had a feeding tube that went through her nose and into the stomach. Fowler said doctors had continually recommended Kylie having a feeding tube, though it was later removed.
Fowler asked Mickens directly about Kylie weighing 14 pounds in April 2019 and 5 pounds in January 2020 between visits to a naturopathic doctor.
“You’d agree with me that Kylie must have looked shockingly different between 14 pounds and 5 pounds, yes?” Fowler asked.
“No,” Mickens said.
“OK. So she just looked exactly the same?”
Fuller at times asked Mickens questions directly about her thought process on when to take Kylie to the hospital.
“From the court’s perspective, I’m asking you why you waited until the child was dying to take the child for medical attention,” Fuller said.
“I didn’t realize she was dying. … (When) her body shut down, I had seen that before, so I didn’t think that she was dying,” Mickens said
Mickens told the judge that Kylie was eating the same amount each and every day.
Mickens had more than a dozen supporters behind her in family and friends, with Mull calling roughly half of them as character witnesses.
Among them was the Rev. Joseph W. Jackson, the senior pastor and founder of The Lord’s House Community Church in Norcross.
Jackson described Mickens as a woman of “great faith” and found her and Jerrail Mickens to be honest and forthright. Other family members commented on how Mickens would constantly care for Kylie.
Support from Mickens’ family and community played in her favor, Fuller said, who had seen her caring for Kylie before her death.
When discussing his reasoning, Fuller noted that in the evidence, Kylie would gain and lose weight even while in the day-to-day care from hospital professionals.
Fuller ultimately said he found “greater mitigating evidence in this case than aggravating evidence.”
“When giving all of the evidence consideration, the court does not find that these facts warrant or demand that you be placed in prison,” Fuller said.
Fuller said he also took into consideration that the death in this case was Mickens’ child.
“The court can only hope that you will suffer a greater punishment simply by that fact than any punishment that this court could impose on you, the fact that you lost Kylie and will not have her in your life for the rest of your life,” Fuller said.