A judge sentenced Natyyo Gray to a life term Thursday afternoon after a jury returned a guilty verdict just one week ago. (Source: MSNewsNow Reporter Jessica Bowman)
Gray broke down on the stand when he described the morning his daughter became unresponsive and stopped breathing.
(Source: MSNewsNow Reporter Jessica Bowman)
The courtroom was packed with onlookers awaiting the judge's sentencing. (Source: MSNewsNow Reporter Jessica Bowman)
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
The former Jackson police officer who killed his 1-year-old daughter in November of 2011 will serve the rest of his life behind bars for the murder. A judge sentenced Natyyo Gray to a life term without the possibility of parole Thursday afternoon.
Just before the sentencing, the toddler's mother, Phyliss Brown, took the stand to express her pain of no longer having her daughter, saying, "I'm just devastated I don't have her."
Brown went on to plea with the judge to give the father of her child the maximum sentence.
"I don't know why he would do this," Brown cried. "She was innocent and perfect. I ask that you give [Gray] the max sentence possible."
Gray took the stand just before his sentencing and continued to argue his innocence.
"I did not do this. I did not harm my child," stated Gray. "Phyliss knows what happened. I am not an abuser or a murderer. Do not take the rest of my days. I did not do this, could not and would not do this. I am taking the fall because no one will stand up and take the blame."
The jury did not agree, and found Gray guilty of capital murder in the death of his 1-year-old daughter Aubrey Zoe Brown. The jury reached its verdict after less than two hours of deliberations on Feb. 21. The jury got the case at 2:56 last Thursday afternoon. The verdict was read around 4:45 p.m.
Aubrey Zoe Brown died in November 2011. Autopsy reports show she died from internal bleeding from blunt force trauma.
The prosecution had one rebuttal witness after the defense rested its case last Thursday morning. The prosecution started the day by continuing it's cross-examination of defense witness Dr. Steven Hayne.
Graphic autopsy pictures of the victim were again shown to the jury. Gray bowed his head and shielded his eyes while the pictures were displayed by a projector on a large screen.
Prosecutors had been trying to discredit Dr. Hayne's testimony, saying he is no longer qualified to do autopsies in Mississippi, nor is he licensed by the American Board of pathology.
Hayne testified for the defense last week and said that Aubrey Zoe Brown was likely injured five hours before her death. This suggests that the child's mother Phyliss Brown could have been responsible.
Hayne has testified for the Hinds County District Attorney's office in the past, but they are now trying to distance themselves from him.
In recent years Hayne has come under scrutiny for performing hundreds of autopsies more than the average medical examiner, in which some convictions have been reversed, where mistakes in his work were discovered.
Earlier last Wednesday, prosecutors cross-examined Natyyo Gray. Gray said he did not murder his daughter, and that her mother Phyliss Brown admitted to spanking her for messing with her iPod.
In a surprising strategy last Tuesday, Gray took the stand in his own defense. Gray broke down on the stand when he described the morning his daughter became unresponsive and stopped breathing. With tears streaming down his face, Gray says he first tried to press on her abdomen, thinking she was constipated, then began CPR when her breathing became faint. Gray says he then called 9-1-1.
Gray and his attorneys placed blame on the child's mother, Phyllis Brown, for the injuries. Brown had left for church and had placed Aubrey in Gray's care at the time. Gray adds when first responders arrived, they did not give his daughter medical treatment until a paramedic from AMR got to the house.
The final witness prosecutors brought to the stand was Dr. Scott Benton the University of Mississippi Medical Examiner. He testified that Aubrey Zoe Brown died from child abuse, and that pushing on her chest as a part of CPR, as Gray claimed he had done, would not have caused the injuries she sustained.
Prosecutors say Gray later told them she died because he performed CPR incorrectly on her. Jackson Police Training Officers, however, testified that Gray had received extensive CPR training through the department.
Last Friday, State Medical Examiner Dr. Erin Barnhart testified that the bruises on Aubrey's stomach were consistent with someone being punched or stomped, not with someone performing CPR, or pressing to relieve constipation, which Gray told paramedics.
Also taking the stand last Friday was Phyllis Brown, the mother of the child. She testified that Gray sent her threatening text messages and emails after she notified him she was having their child and was seeking child support from him.
Brown told jurors at first he didn't want anything to do with her or the child. Brown became emotional when she talked about Aubrey Zoe Brown.
"She was so special to me. I just loved everything about her. She was a joy. I was amazed by her. I loved to make her laugh. She was sweet. She just had the sweetest spirit. She convinced me parenting was easy," Brown expressed as she cried on the stand.
Defense attorneys believe Brown could have injured her daughter before she left her alone in Natyyo Gray's care.
Gray was a detective with the Jackson Police Department before his arrest. His attorneys say police officers didn't take the proper time to investigate the child's death.
Jackson Police Detective Eric Smith testified about examining Aubrey's body when called to the hospital to investigate the case.
"I observed numerous bruises on the abdomen, observed bruising on the head, a large contusion or bump on the back left side of the head, but for the most part bruising on the abdomen," described Smith.
A 911 tape was also played for the jury, where Gray told the operator his daughter had a faint breath, and wasn't responding. He also told the operator he believed the Aubrey's mother had given her milk, which made her sick.
Defense attorneys tried to place blame on the child's mother, Phyllis Brown. They say she had a life insurance policy on the child, and was suffering from financial troubles, which could have been her motive.
Brown took the stand and said in court that Gray wanted nothing to do with their child. She claimed that Gray wrote in a text message, "that ugly baby isn't mine." Brown then went to court to file for child support for Aubrey.
Brown also testified that she had a $40,000 life insurance policy on her child, but that she had no financial difficulties, refuting the defense attorney's theory that the money could have been Brown's motive to harm the child.
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