A child cruelty case involving a day care worker accused of scalding a 16-month-old boy in June 2014 is now in the hands of a Hall County jury.
The case against Eddye Pittmon aggravated battery and child cruelty charges wrapped up Thursday in Hall Superior Court with defense and prosecution lawyers giving their final arguments.
“Person after person let Damon (Gaddis) down,” Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva told jurors. “You will finally get a chance to stand up for Damon.
“One day, when Damon is grown up ... he’ll want to know if justice was done,” the prosecutor said. “This is Damon’s only chance to get justice.”
Eddye Pittmon’s lawyer, Troy Millikan, attacked the state’s case on several fronts in his closing statement, including that the prosecution didn’t lay out facts well enough.
“You still don’t know what happened,” he told jurors. “It’s a jump to say this wonderful lady mistreated Damon, and therefore she did it.”
Millikan was referring to a string of prosecution witnesses who criticized Pittmon’s treatment of Damon at Discovering Basics day care.
“She is stern and old school, but there’s something good about old school,” the lawyer said.
According to her indictment, Pittmon is accused of seriously disfiguring Damon’s leg by putting hot water on him and causing him “cruel and excessive physical pain.”
She also is accused of not seeking medical attention for the burn, the indictment states.
On the day of the alleged scalding, Pittmon was “irate” when she discovered feces on the child’s back, Sachdeva said.
“She took him back to her room, turned on the hot water and that’s when the blistering (appeared) and over the day, (the injury) got progressively worse,” he said.
Pittmon didn’t seek medical attention but put petroleum jelly on the wound, possibly worsening the injury, Sachdeva said.
“One thing after another, she was making this little boy suffer,” he said.
Millikan has contended from the outset that Damon was burned before Eddye tended to him based on the timing of blisters from the burn.
“How long would it take for a blister to occur after burns of this type?” Millikan asked Dr. Thomas Zaydon Jr., a Miami plastic surgeon called as a defense witness, on Thursday.
“It would take hours to a day or more,” Zaydon said. “It’s not a matter of minutes.”
“So if you find a blister — and you did on that leg — what does that indicate to you?” Millikan asked.
“An injury hours before,” Zaydon said.
His testimony contrasted what a state witness, Dr. Richard Cartie of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers in Augusta, had said earlier in the week.
“Given the severity of his burns, I would anticipate that when he received the burns, it was immediately evident with blistering that these were, at the very least, second-degree burns,” Cartie said.
Millikan also disputed whether Damon was washed in the sink.
“Based on the size of that child and the pattern of burns, in your opinion, could these burns have been inflicted upon this child by water from that sink?” he asked.
“I don’t believe it’s possible,” Zaydon said.
The trial got intense when Sachdeva asked Zaydon about whether he had been paid for his testimony. Zaydon said he had been paid $5,000.
“If you had not been paid, would you have testified?” Sachdeva said.
“I probably would have because I believe in the innocence of this ...” Zaydon started to say before Sachdeva cut him off with an objection.
Laughter erupted from the audience, followed by a rebuke from Judge Jason Deal.
“I’ll clear the court. You are going to follow the rules,” he said.
After the trial resumed, Zaydon went on to say, “Money has nothing to do with my testimony in this case.”
The jury deliberated through the afternoon and sent a note with two questions to Deal about the time parameters for deliberations and the definition of “intentionally” as meant in the aggravated battery charge.
Deal described the term meaning “deliberately or on purpose” after hearing arguments from Millikan and Sachdeva on the word’s definition.
The jury returned around 5 p.m. with the intent to deliberate for another hour. Before 6 p.m., Deal announced the jury would return at 9 a.m. today to continue deliberation.
Also charged in the case are Discovering Basics owner Minnie Sue Dupree and site director Tara Miller, both of Gainesville.
Dupree is charged with giving false statements to authorities. Miller is charged with second-degree child cruelty, accused of not seeking medical attention for the child’s burn.
Reporter Nick Watson contributed to this report.