The story of Jamarion Lawhorn is a tragic one. Known as Kent County’s youngest killer, Jamarion stabbed 9-year-old Conner Verkerke in a playground near his home in an effort to get himself arrested and executed. The reason? He wanted the electric chair, because he wanted to end his life, and by killing Connor, he could ensure that he would receive the death sentence. Sadly, this young boy didn’t know that Michigan doesn’t sentence criminals to death, and hasn’t since 1847.
However, the case led to an investigation into his homelife, which in turn resulted in child abuse charges against his mother and stepfather. Jamarion told tales of an unloving home, where his parents beat him regularly for things like failing to fill the ice trays and not doing chores. The scars on his body backed his claims. Anita Lawhorn, his mother, was charged with Third and Fourth Degree Child Abuse.
There was a great deal of finger pointing involved in this case. Jamarion claimed that he had suffered at the hands of both parents. Anita told the court she was innocent and it had been her husband, Bernard Harrold, who had beaten and harmed the children. At first Harrold denied the claims, but later admitted that he had indeed wielded the belt and the extension cord, but pointed out that Anita did her fair share of “discipline” as well. Even the CPS workers involved were implicated and punished for what had happened.
In November of 2015, Anita Lawhorn was sentenced to one year of jail time, and five years of probation. She fought the sentence, though, and in her appeal, claimed that the Third Degree Child Abuse statute was too vague. She also argued that her sentence had been unreasonable, given that her minimum guideline range was 0 to 11 months in jail, which she had been required to serve a full year.
The Appeals Court Judges disagreed. In their opinion, released just a few days ago, they explained Lawhorn’s claims, and why they couldn’t accept them. The opinion stated that Anita Lawhorn argued that in order to “avoid being considered unconstitutionally vague, the statute should specifically delineate all of the acceptable and unacceptable forms of corporal punishment and should define physical harm more narrowly.” They went on to explain that ‘physical harm’ is defined by the statute as ‘any injury to a child’s physical condition‘, and that “an offense need not be defined with mathematical certainty.’’
“Testimony at trial revealed that defendant admitted she ‘whupped’ the victim with a belt, hit him ‘too hard’ and caused marks to be left on the victim,’’ the Justices explained. They went on to expound on the fact that beating Jamarion with a belt, causing him injuries that left scars, falls within the state’s definition of conduct outlawed by the child abuse statute.
Child abuse charges are taken very seriously in MIchigan. Any parent accused of abusing or neglecting a child is likely to face charges, not to mention the chance of losing custody of their children. Appealing those charges is extremely hard, and very time consuming, so it’s better to get it right from the very start. If you or a loved one have been accused of abusing a child, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. We have decades of experience defending parents whose rights are being challenged by the state. We can help you too!