Jury selection began Monday in the child abuse murder trial of a man accused of stomping a 20-month-old boy to death in 2017.
Jake Ryan Holman, 38, faces life in prison or life in prison without parole if convicted in the boy’s death. Jury selection in the case before Cleveland County District Judge Jeff Virgin will continue this morning with testimony scheduled to begin later in the day.
During Monday’s jury selection, defense attorney Cindy Viol questioned potential jurors about pre-trial publicity and if they had read or heard about the case. Most of the jurors responded they knew nothing about Holman or the killing. Holman was the boyfriend to the victim’s mother who will be called to testify sometime this week.
Viol asked the jury pool about their news sources with most responding they watch Oklahoma City television stations or rely on Google. At one point, Viol asked potential jurors if they read magazines such as The Atlantic or listened to National Public Radio.
“Most of us only watch (local news) when there’s a tornado warning,” the defense attorney said to a round of chuckles from the jury pool.
Later, Viol asked if the jurors would be more upset about sending an innocent man to prison or letting a guilty defendant go free. Each of the 30 jurors being questioned said they would rather let the guilty person go free. Several of the jurors said taking away a person’s freedom would be more detrimental.
Viol said her job as a defense attorney is to ensure her client isn’t “railroaded into the penitentiary.”
A report from the state medical examiner’s office shows the boy died from massive internal injuries. The report also shows the toddler suffered from a swollen brain.
Holman was the last person who saw the child alive, according to an arrest warrant affidavit prepared by Norman Detective Glenda Vassar. However, Holman told police he was checking on the boy during the early morning hours of Feb. 4, 2017 when he discovered him lying facedown on the floor. The boy’s mother, Cydney Cox, told police she placed her son in the crib about 9 p.m. on Feb. 3, the affidavit shows.
Cox told police she and Holman were the only two people in the apartment when the child was last seen alive. Cox also said she left her son in Holman’s care for a short time after her son went to bed, according to the affidavit.
Virgin said he will rule today if a key prosecution witness should be labeled a jailhouse informant and if a special jury instruction should be given to jurors before they deliberate. The witness, Corey Stone, testified in a hearing last week that Holman told him he killed the boy. The alleged conversation occurred while the two men were incarcerated in the Cleveland County jail.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have requested the judge restrict defense attorneys from improperly inquiring about Stone’s prior criminal convictions. Prosecutors are asking that defense attorneys be limited to asking about the conviction only and not the facts surrounding the case.
In addition, prosecutors have asked the judge to prohibit the defense team from submitting evidence about the hours Cox took her child to daycare from Dec. 25, 2016 to Feb. 3, 2017.
“The purpose of these exhibits is to disparage and demean the victim’s mother, Cydney Cox, by attempting to highlight the fact that Ms. Cox would put her son in daycare when she was not at work or would not immediately pick him up from daycare when she got off from work,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Crowe wrote in a court filing. “Whether Ms. Cox was at work when Maddox Abner was at daycare is not relevant and it will most certainly confuse the issues and mislead the jury.”
The judge is expected to rule today on the two requests from prosecutors. The first-degree murder case will last about two weeks.