Mistrial declared with hung jury

Nathan Daniel Tijerina escaped a possible prison sentence Tuesday when a hung jury resulted in a mistrial. 

A jury of eight men and four women deliberated for more than two hours and 40 minutes before informing District Judge Pat Phelan that they were hung up. Eight jurors found Tijerina not guilty while four declared him guilty.

Phelan directed the jury to deliberate on Tijerina’s guilt again. They returned less than 20 minutes later saying they could not reach a verdict, and Phelan declared a mistrial. 

Testimony in the trial started Monday afternoon.

Tijerina, 26, of Levelland was charged with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury.

The case revolved around allegations that the defendant deliberately injured his daughter, Tallulah, two years ago.

The child was nearly three months old when she was taken to the hospital emergency room here on July 10, 2012.

Dr. Charles Hughes testified Tuesday that the infant was not breathing and had no pulse when her mother, Amy McLean, brought her to the hospital that night.

“There was no pulse. You could not hear her heart beating,” Hughes said. “The child was blue.” Medical personnel began compressing the child’s chest and did a “bagging” procedure to induce oxygen into her lungs. IVs were administered and the infant’s heart began beating within 20 minutes, Hughes said.

“The very remarkable thing was the child revived,” he said, adding that it was a rare event.

Hughes said no one mentioned that the child might have a head injury. Had that been known, then medical personnel would have been more careful with the victim’s neck.

The victim was never conscious during her time at the hospital here.

Hughes said tests showed that the girl’s white cell count and lactate levels were both very high. He said the lactate levels could have been a possible indicator of brain injuries, while the white cell count could have indicated a lack of oxygen.

He said he did not speak with either of the child’s parents while she was in the hospital.

Tallulah was transported to Covenant Children’s Hospital in Lubbock.

Nurse Macy Climer told the jury Tuesday that the child had swelling of the brain, fever and electrolyte abnormalities when she saw her at the Lubbock hospital.

District Attorney Christopher Dennis asked the witness if the child was on a “downward trend” at the hospital.

“It wasn’t getting better; we prepared to go to the OR (operating room),” Climer said.

During surgery, doctors removed part of the child’s skull to reduce swelling of the brain. Afterwards, a “bowl drain” was connected to allow the release of excess fluid.

Treatments included keeping the infant on a “cool” blanket afterwards to keep her temperature lower than normal and to reduce oxygen usage.

Asked why, the witness said, “because of the severe brain injury.”

Several photographs of the child that were taken by Climer on July 11, 2012 were distributed to jurors for review.

Climer said she spoke to the defendant in his daughter’s hospital room three days later.

She explained to Tijerina all of the injuries to Tallulah, the drain tube and other attachments to her body. 

“He would not look at me; he would not look at Tallulah,” the witness recalled. “He would look down at his feet; he would not say anything.”

The prosecutor asked the witness if that appeared to be an appropriate response on the part of a parent.

Climer said no.

The child’s condition stabilized and she was at her “new normal” when she was released at the end of August that year, according to the witness.

Dr. Laszlo Nagy, a pediatric/ neurosurgeon in Lubbock, told the jury Tuesday that the girl suffered trauma to her brain and had a subdural hemorrhage.

Asked what could cause such injuries, Nagy said “significant force” would have been required.

The witness said there was no reasonable expectation that the girl’s brain could regenerate itself. 

“I would never give up on a child,” he added. “There was a significant trauma to the head.”

Under cross examination by defense attorney Tina Rincones, the witness said he could not say how the injury occurred or who might have been responsible for it.

Detective Sgt. Tammie McDonald testified Monday that Tijerina gave her conflicting statements about the injuries.

According to the state, the injuries occurred in a 10-minute span when Amy McLean left thecouple’s Cactus Drive mobile home to get some cigarettes.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Rincones charged that the prosecution’s case against her client was “absolutely choppy” and that the state had failed to prove his guilt. 

“This has been a chopped up messy investigation,” she said. “We’ll never know because they didn’t do it right.”

Dennis said evidence in the case showed that the victim’s injuries were not accidental.

Testimony by one witness showed that the girl had suffered broken ribs, he stated.

Tallulah, who suffered permanent brain damage, is in foster care today

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