MCDONOUGH, Ga. — Jennifer McDaniel, Joseph Rosenbaum's sister, testified she never saw bruises or abrasions on 2-year-old Laila Daniel and her older sister, Millie.
The girls were living with the Rosenbaums when Laila died on Nov. 17, 2015. Jennifer Rosenbaum told police Laila died while choking on a piece of chicken. Prosecutors says she died of abuse at the hands of the Rosenbaums.
The Rosenbaums are on trial on numerous charges, including murder, in the child's death. Their lawyers began their defense on Tuesday.
Defense attorney's assertions as stated during opening statements
- Laila’s death was accidental
- Laila’s injuries were caused by Jennifer performing CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver or through normal childhood play
- Charges against Rosenbaums are politically motivated
- Jennifer Rosenbaum was targeted because was critical of the county
The medical examiner testified Laila died from internal bleeding caused by a transected pancreas. She also had bruises and abrasions on every part of her body, most extensively on her back. Additionally, Laila had a broken leg, broken arm and an old liver injury when she died.
Since the defense began presenting its case Tuesday, it has introduced a steady stream of witnesses who claimed they never saw bruises or injuries on the girls. Jennifer McDaniel’s testimony Wednesday was similar.
Corinne Mull, defense attorney: Did either of them favor their arms?
Jennifer McDaniel, Joseph Rosenbaum’s sister: No.
Mull: Did either complain of hurting anywhere?
McDaniel: No ma’am. As a matter of fact, Millie was brushing my hair and brushing my Mom’s hair. And Laila and I were rolling around on the floor in the living room playing with my other children.
McDaniel said the girls were affectionate with the Rosenbaums and seemed happy living in their home. She also told the court she was at the hospital the day Laila died and witnessed what she felt was an off encounter with the county coroner.
“When the coroner walked in he was really strange,” testified McDaniel. “He was like ‘Oh THAT Jennifer Rosenbaum.’ He already knew who she was. She was a public figure. The way he said it was off to me.“
McDaniel said everyone was distraught and upset when they learned Laila died.
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PHOTOS: Laila Marie Daniel
Another friend of Jennifer’s took the stand and said Jennifer has been babysitting her kids for years. She still asks Jennifer to babysit her children on occasion.
Laila Daniel’s great aunt, Kim Smith, took the stand and testified that Laila’s great grandmother spanked her on occasion with a fly swatter when the toddler was at her house during court-approved visitation.
Smith originally told police she didn’t think the Rosenbaums had anything to do with Laila’s death. She later changed her mind and told police she felt they could have hurt the child.
Wednesday afternoon, a psychologist who is an expert in child forensic interviews, took the stand for the defense. The defense lawyer asked if two detectives interview of Millie, which the court saw earlier in the trial, was standard. He pointed out several things he felt were wrong in the interview:
Expert in child forensic interviews testimony about one of Millie's interviews
- Crowded room
- Another child present
- 2 officers interviewing, instead of one
- Felt child was asked leading questions
In the end, the defense was trying to reinforce their assertion that Millie’s statements were influenced by her great grandmother’s opinions about the case.
The defense has said it will likely complete its case by Thursday.