Assigned on Briefs January 18, 2017
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 13-04061 Lee V.
defendant, Jamie Jones, appeals his Shelby County Criminal
Court jury convictions of felony murder and aggravated child
abuse, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his
motion to recuse, by permitting the State to amend the
indictment, by admitting certain evidence at trial, and that
the cumulative effects of these errors prevented him from
receiving a fair trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed.
Mesler (on appeal), and André C. Wharton and Alexander
Wharton (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P.
Weirich, District Attorney General; and Jennifer Nichols and
Eric Christensen, Assistant District Attorneys General, for
the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.,
CURWOOD WITT, JR., JUDGE.
August 2013, the Shelby County Grand Jury charged the
defendant with alternative counts of felony murder, one count
of aggravated child abuse, and one count of aggravated child
neglect, arising out of the death of the victim, the
defendant's three-year-old son, L.S. The trial court
conducted a jury trial in August 2015.
State's proof at trial showed that the victim's
mother, P.S., was fourteen years of age when the victim
was born on October 4, 2009. From the time of his birth until
December 26, 2012, the victim resided with P.S., his
grandmother, R.S., and his aunt, C.S., in Hernando,
Mississippi. According to C.S., the defendant, who resided in
Memphis, would see the victim "periodically."
December 25, 2012, the victim spent the entire day with his
maternal family, and R.S. testified that he was
"[h]ealthy" and "a happy little
three-year-old." C.S. stated that the victim had no
bruises, marks, or abrasions on his body when he fell asleep
in her room that night.
C.S. awoke the next morning, the victim and P.S. were gone.
P.S. testified that the defendant had arrived at her
residence early on the morning of December 26 and that she
and the victim had left with the defendant while the rest of
the family was still asleep. P.S. let the victim return to
the defendant's residence for the next several days.
January 1, the defendant arrived at the home of P.S.'s
friend, Christina, with whom P.S. had been staying. When the
victim got out of the defendant's car, P.S. noticed that
the victim had a bruise on his forehead, and the defendant
explained that one of his daughters had pushed the victim
down some stairs. Shortly thereafter, C.S. arrived at
Christina's house. C.S. observed the victim wearing only
a diaper and noticed that the victim had a knot on his
forehead just above his left eye. C.S. saw no other marks or
bruises on the victim's torso, back, arms, or legs, but
she did notice that the victim's lips were "very
chapped" and that he had a small bruise on the inside of
his lip. C.S. also believed that the victim appeared to be
returned home and reported what she had seen to R.S. and her
brother. C.S. and R.S. then returned to the residence where
the victim was staying, but P.S. informed them that the
victim was not there. C.S. and R.S. eventually located the
victim at the home of the defendant's sister, where they
found the victim dressed in girls' clothing because, as
P.S. explained, he had defecated in his clothing earlier.
Through the testimony of C.S., the State introduced into
evidence a photograph taken of the victim at that time, which
appeared to show a fairly large bruise or knot on the
victim's forehead above his left eye. R.S. called the
police, and both police officers and a social worker arrived
at the house sometime later. After C.S. and R.S. had spoken
with the police officers, they returned home without the
victim. They never saw the victim alive again.
testified that, after her mother and sister had gone home,
she took the victim to the hospital, at the direction of the
social worker, to undergo a Computerized Axial Tomography
("CAT") scan. Following the CAT scan, the victim
left the hospital with P.S. and the defendant, and the
defendant eventually took the victim home with him while P.S.
returned to Christina's residence. On January 8, P.S.
took the victim to the Department of Children's Services
("DCS"). At that time, P.S. noticed that the victim
had "little fingernail scratches on his face" that
appeared to have been made by a child, and the bruise on his
forehead was still present. Following the DCS meeting, the
victim returned home with the defendant.
January 14, the defendant's mother arrived at
Christina's house; she was crying and told P.S. that they
needed to go to the hospital because the victim had fallen
"down the stairs" and was unresponsive. Shortly
thereafter, C.S. received a call that the victim was
unresponsive and had been taken to Le Bonheur Children's
Hospital ("Le Bonheur"). Before C.S. made it to the
hospital, P.S. called to inform her that the victim had died.
Balmut, a registered nurse in the emergency department at Le
Bonheur, testified as an expert in the field of emergency
room nursing. Mr. Balmut was working as the trauma nurse on
January 14 when the victim arrived at the hospital shortly
before 1:00 p.m.. Someone was performing cardiopulmonary
resuscitation ("CPR") on the victim when Mr. Balmut
first encountered him in the hospital lobby. The victim was
transferred to a stretcher, and the nurse who had been
performing CPR on the victim climbed onto the stretcher with
the victim and continued CPR all the way to the emergency
department. Mr. Balmut testified that from the time he first
encountered the victim until the victim's death, the
victim never had a heart rate and never breathed on his own.
All attempts to resuscitate the victim failed, and the victim
was pronounced dead at 1:34 p.m.
close to three hours after the victim's death, Mr. Balmut
remained with the body and examined the victim from
"head to toe." Mr. Balmut described the
[I]n five and a half years I've never - this is, by far,
the worst set of injuries I've ever seen, by orders of
magnitude worse than anything I've ever seen. I saw
present, essentially, from head to toe, everything from his
feet to his hands. His scrotum was bruised. He had what
looked to me like burns across his head that looked like a
friction burn, like when you get a carpet burn on your knee
when you're a kid.
asked if the victim's injuries could have been caused by
a fall down a set of eight stairs, Mr. Balmut responded as
No, sir. Impossible. I guess anything is possible, but I
don't see any way at all that these injuries could be
caused by any number of falls of any height whatsoever.
I've seen kids that have jumped off of bunk beds.
I've seen kids that have come off of second, third floors
of apartment buildings. I've seen kids that were ejected
from a moving vehicle on the interstate and tumbled down a
highway for a hundred-plus feet, and none of them had
injuries nearly as severe - nothing near as severe as the
injuries that he came in with.
Balmut also recalled that the victim "had maybe 
puncture wounds on his lower abdomen, pelvis, flank area that
looked like they had ink, like - almost like if you just took
a ballpoint pen and just sat there and just - and like
stabbed somebody with it." Mr. Balmut denied that the
victim's bruises were the result of resuscitative
efforts. Mr. Balmut testified that the victim's injuries
were "the worst thing [he'd] ever seen in years of
working" at the hospital and opined that the injuries
were the result of child abuse.
Camilla Forsythe, a pediatric emergency physician at Le
Bonheur, testified as an expert witness in the area of
pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine. Immediately upon
seeing the victim on January 14, Doctor Forsythe knew that he
"was a victim of trauma" based on "the
distribution of wounds on the face and on the
extremities." Doctor Forsythe noted that the victim, who
was in full cardiac arrest when he arrived at the hospital,
had "some form of burn on his face" along with
"extensive" bruising on his face, his trunk, and
his extremities. Doctor Forsythe learned from a social worker
and from the defendant that the victim had allegedly
"fallen down the stairs" earlier in the day and
that the defendant had brought him to the hospital "to
have him checked out." Doctor Forsythe had "never,
ever seen a child fall down even a flight of stairs with the
extent of bruising that" the victim had, recalling that
the victim even "had a bruise on the tip of his
the victim was brought to the emergency department from the
hospital lobby, his body temperature was significantly lower
than average, which suggested to Doctor Forsythe that the
victim's circulation "had paused for a period of
time that was longer than just getting from" the
hospital lobby to the emergency department. Taking both his
low body temperature and low lactic acid levels into account,
Doctor Forsythe opined that the victim had had poor
circulation for over an hour. In addition, the victim had no
reaction to pain stimuli, no gag response, and his pupils
were fixed and dilated. Doctor Forsythe opined that the
victim died "of nonaccidental trauma" as the result
of a "beating."
Doctor Forsythe informed the defendant and P.S. that the
victim had died, P.S. was "extremely upset, " but
the defendant said nothing. When Memphis Police Department
("MPD") Officer Michael Tippett informed the
defendant that he would be taking him from the hospital to
the police department for an interview, the defendant was
defendant's wife, Teairra Jones, recalled seeing
"three bumps" on the victim's head around
January 1 and stated that the defendant had told her that the
victim had fallen down the stairs. On the morning of January
14, the defendant drove Mrs. Jones to work, and he then
returned home to watch the victim and his two young
daughters. Shortly after noon, the defendant called Mrs.
He told me that [the victim] had fallen and that he
couldn't get him to respond. He did take him a bath, and
he laid him down, but he couldn't get - when he fallen,
he took him a bath, and when he laid him down, he
couldn't get him to wake up.
I was like, "Well, Jamie, " I was, like, "Get
him to the hospital." And he was, like, "Okay,
I'm going to have to take him to the hospital."
Jones asked a co-worker to drive her to the hospital, and
while en route, she spotted the defendant's car and
flagged him down. She then got into the defendant's
vehicle and saw the victim, who was "laying there"
and "kind of making a little noise." The
victim's eyes were closed, and Mrs. Jones was unable to
tell whether the victim was breathing or had a pulse.
According to Mrs. Jones, the defendant began "vomiting
everywhere" when the doctor informed them that the
victim had died. Mrs. Jones confirmed that the victim was
"fine" when she left for work on the morning of
January 14, and, with respect to post-mortem photographs of
the victim, she testified that the victim had multiple
bruises that she had not seen earlier in the day.
Crime Scene Investigator J.R. Rector photographed the
defendant's residence and testified that the exterior of
the defendant's apartment complex had eight steps leading
to a landing, followed by eight additional steps leading to
the defendant's second-floor, two-story apartment.
Photographs of the apartment's interior revealed what
appeared to be fecal matter smeared on a hallway wall leading
to the downstairs bathroom and an indentation on the wall
opposite the fecal matter. On the second floor of the
apartment, Officer Rector photographed a blue towel located
in the hallway floor just outside the upstairs bathroom, and
he stated that "the towel and the floor beneath it had
been soiled with fecal matter." Officer Rector testified
that the blue towel was wet when he collected it on January
14. A photograph of the apartment's interior staircase
depicted at least nine carpeted stairs.
Karen Chancellor, Chief Medical Examiner for Shelby County,
performed the victim's autopsy and testified as an expert
witness in the field of forensic pathology. Through Doctor
Chancellor's testimony, the State introduced into
evidence 41 photographs depicting the following injuries to
the victim's body: bruising on the back of his head;
bruising and abrasions on the top of his head; bruising on
the right side of his head; a bruise on his left cheek; an
abrasion and a small scratch around his left ear; multiple
areas on the victim's forehead, nose, upper lip, chin,
and below his right eye where the "top layer of the skin
has been removed" likely due to a "burn or chemical
type burn"; a half-inch scratch or abrasion on his lower
right side of his face; bruising and a laceration on the
inside of the victim's lower lip; a large abrasion
underneath the victim's chin; a large bruised area on the
right side of the victim's neck; multiple scratches on
the back of the victim's neck; a two-inch bruise on the
back of the victim's right shoulder; multiple bruises on
the back of the victim's left shoulder; a large,
rectangular area of bruising just below the right side of the
victim's ribcage "which could [have] be[en] caused
by a part of a shoe" as well as multiple smaller bruises
on the right side of the victim's torso; several smaller
bruises on the left side of the victim's torso; multiple
bruises extending from the victim's right shoulder to the
upper arm to the forearm to the hand; multiple bruises
extending from the victim's left shoulder to his upper
arm to his forearm, as well as scratches and abrasions on his
left arm; "large areas of bruising" on both the
right and left sides of the victim's back, in addition to
scratches on his back; the buttocks and back of the upper
thigh area, which was "just one large area of
bruising"; two bruises on the back of the victim's
right knee; bruising on both of the victim's inner
thighs; bruising on the victim's upper right thigh;
bruising on the tip of the victim's penis; bruising on
both of the victim's lower legs; multiple bruises on the
victim's lower right quadrant; a large area of bruising
on the victim's right ...