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5/27/05 Burned baby's mother guilty of manslaughter

BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Tulsa World (Final Home Edition),
Page A15 of News

Tulsa County jurors found a woman guilty of second-degree manslaughter early Friday but elected not to return a verdict on a murder charge for Jeannie Henderson, who prosecutors contend allowed her baby to burn to death over a floor furnace while she was passed out from using drugs. The jury sentenced Henderson to a total of eight years and 90 days. Tulsa County District Judge Tom Thornbrugh will formally sentence Henderson on July 11. Defense lawyers had told jurors that 8-month-old Christian Marten's death was a tragic, freak accident and that this was a "witch hunt" that relied upon unproven accusations. On the eighth day of the trial, the jury had retired to the deliberating room about 2:15 p.m., and the six-man, six-woman panel did not return verdicts until about 10 hours later. District Attorney Tim Harris and Assistant District Attorney Dana Kuehn contended that Christian sustained a "horrendous" death Dec. 14, 2003, at his home at 1933 S. Indianapolis Ave. because his mother, deprived of sleep during a methamphetamine binge, "crashed" and couldn't hear his screams. Defense lawyer Patrick Adams asserted that prosecutors, "in calling a mommy a murderer," relied on "awful" pictures of the dead boy, "judgmental" investigators and some lying witnesses. "They've got some horrible pictures and some big charges and some awful allegations. They don't have the evidence," Adams said during a closing argument. Henderson, 20, did not testify. In a taped statement, she told a detective that "my baby didn't cry" and that "if he had cried, I would have heard him." She cried at the defense table when Harris, during his closing argument, recited some basic life experiences -- such as seeing an ocean or knocking a baseball to the fence -- that Christian will never enjoy. Evidence indicated that Henderson had taken a nap with her 3-year-old daughter, Katelyn Henderson, on a couch that police measured as only five feet from the furnace. Harris theorized that on a cold December day, the diaper-clad baby rolled his walker to the furnace, got caught on the grate and burned his feet when he tried to push off to get free. On the second-degree murder count, Thornbrugh gave jurors the option of reaching a verdict on the lesser offense of second-degree manslaughter. Henderson also stood trial on two other felony counts -- child neglect and possession of methamphetamine in the presence of children younger than 12 -- and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. The jury found her not guilty of child neglect but sentenced Henderson to four years for the manslaughter conviction and four years upon finding her guilty of possessing a controlled drug in the presence of children younger than 12. The 90-day sentence was for a conviction on a misdemeanor charge of possession of paraphernalia. Adams and co-counsel Thomas Mortensen have maintained that the prosecution failed to prove that Christian cried and failed to prove that Henderson was passed out from using methamphetamine. Christian's father, Jerry Marten, 24, faces a trial later on the same four counts.

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