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A woman convicted of severely attacking her baby, leaving him blind and brain dead, has pleaded for leniency, arguing that her incarceration would prejudice her two young children and the third one she is now expecting.
Convicted in March of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm for physically abusing her son since he was just three months old, Malinda Marshall pleaded her case during pre-sentencing proceedings in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s court on Monday.
Her son, known as baby Michael, died a cerebral palsied child in October last year despite being born healthy. The abuse had left him with severe brain injuries and haemorrhaging that caused bleeding from his eye, and he was being fed with a tube. Doctors who treated him found he had shaken-baby syndrome and had been hit on the head.
But as his parents, both convicted of the same offence, stood side by side in the dock on Monday, Marshall sought to convince magistrate Frans Booyens that she was a loving mother who did not deserve to be locked up in jail.
She has since had two more children after separating from her co-accused, Bradley Connor, and marrying a man she now lives with in Mbombela.
“She is currently a good mother, and if she’s sent to prison, her children are going to suffer. I ask the court to give her a suspended sentence,” argued Marshall’s attorney, Gert Scheepers.
But surprisingly, when Booyens asked for the ages of her two children, she could not remember. “She says she’s forgotten,” said Scheepers.
Having previously blamed Connor entirely for their son’s plight, Marshall said on Monday she was remorseful and that she had never reported him.
A probation officer who assessed her told the court in March that Marshall said Connor hit baby Michael every time he cried. On one occasion, Michael cried so hard that Connor grabbed him by the neck and forcefully threw him onto a bed.
In his defence, Connor had told the probation officer that the only incident in which Michael was injured in his presence was when he threw him in the air while playing with him and “accidentally failed to catch him”. The baby had landed on the floor as a result.
But it was for this incident that the pair got hammered by state prosecutor Carina Coetzee on Monday. She said the pair failed to rush the child to hospital immediately after he fell, taking him there only the next day when he was already unconscious and bleeding from the brain.
“The offence committed by the accused was a heinous offence committed against an infant. The child died from illnesses resulting from the attack. They’ve shown no remorse for what happened to baby Michael. They are only sorry for what is going to happen to them now.”
Coetzee said also the pair had not given substantial or compelling reasons as to why they failed to rush their son to hospital.
“None of them said that on that particular day they were suffering from depression. None of them gave answers. Both elected not to seek help.
“It wouldn’t have been as severe had either of them called for help to transport the child to hospital.
“(Instead) the accused implicated each other… None wanted to be held accountable for what they did to baby Michael,” said Coetzee, calling for direct imprisonment.
Connor’s attorney, McDonald Khumalo, argued that his client was a suitable candidate for correctional supervision.
Booyens is expected to sentence the pair on July 13.