NINE years after they throttled Baby Michael, bashed his tiny head with fists and left him blind and brain dead, Malinda Marshall and Bradley Connor were sentenced to an effective 10 years each for the crime.
“Go down,had baby doll,” yelled members of the advocacy group Women and Men Against Child Abuse as Marshall appeared reluctant to join her former lover in a walk down the stairs leading to the holding cells of the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.
Marshall had previously argued that her incarceration would prejudice the two young sons she had since separating from Connor, and the unborn one she is currently carrying.
But magistrate Frans Booyens ruled that while the rights of children should be considered, they should be balanced with the “gravity and seriousness of the offence”.
He said a sentence of correctional supervision that both Marshall and Connor had appealed for would “send out an undesirable message that crime pays off”.
“These callous deeds were committed without any mercy. Heartless, horrific, monster-like behaviour. You have deprived Michael of his life. He was struck, throttled and shaken with such brutal force that he was left blind and brain dead. He remained in that hopeless situation until his (untimely) death,” said Booyens.
He said Marshall had a strong support system – her husband and mother-in-law – who were capable of caring for her two sons.
Booyens said Marshall and Connor’s current situations “cannot be allowed to play a role in this present case” as they had failed to show remorse, carrying on with their lives as if nothing had happened.
“Both of you have been carrying on with your lives knowing very well you have a case of a serious nature still pending,” he said, adding that if Marshall had heeded her parent’s advice to give the baby up for adoption, it would have been “a blessing for Michael”.
He sentenced the pair to 20 years each for the two counts of assault with grievous bodily harm but sentences for the two counts will run concurrently, making their effective sentences 10 years each.
Baby Michael suffered abuse at the hands of his parents in 2003 and in her defence, Marshall argued that it was Connor who abused the baby, hitting him every time he cried. But Connor disputed this, laying the blame squarely on Marshall and telling a probation officer who assessed him that the only incident where he had been present when their baby was harmed was when he was playing with him by throwing him in the air.
He had accidentally failed to catch the boy, causing him to fall on the floor.
But prosecutor Carina Coetzee had hammered the pair on this particular issue, saying they had failed to take their child to the hospital immediately after the incident occurred, opting to wait until the following morning.
By the time the child was seen by a doctor, he was unconscious. The doctor also found that the baby had shaken-baby syndrome and that he had been hit on the head.
“He (Baby Michael), had a right to life in terms of Section 11 of the constitution. He had a right to parental care… a right to be protected from maltreatment and abuse,” said Booyens.