Albany man guilty on 10 charges related to boy's beating
Attorneys on both sides presented closing arguments in the State v. Justin Roy case in court Friday before Associate Justice Steven Houran and a jury of eight men and six women. Roy, 34, an unemployed logger, faces felony and simple assault charges, two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of criminal restraint.
The charges allege that Roy took the boy, Strider Downs Skidgel, to a shed in the middle of the night on Dec. 19, 2011, and caused life-threatening injuries to his abdomen. Strider, his mother, Heather Downs, 33, and his two brothers, Zander, 7 and Gallagher, 11 months, lived with Roy in the Golden Oaks mobile home park for about two months until the morning of the alleged attacks.
Strider, whom doctors' testified almost died, survived three surgeries, several weeks in the hospital, and has since regained his health in the care of other relatives. He lives with his brother Gallagher, grandparents and his biological father. Brother Zander is living with Downs' mother and stepfather.
Two counts of simple assault allege that Roy injured Zander by jumping on his legs and pushing him, and a third charge alleges that he squirted milk from a baby bottle over Gallagher.
Prior to closing arguments, Judge Houran granted defense motions to dismiss two of the lesser charges: one count of simple assault for allegedly pushing Downs away from the shed, and one count of criminal restraint for placing Strider outdoors on a dog crate in cold weather. The judge agreed there was not enough evidence presented to sustain those two charges.
The remaining charges include first-degree assault, two counts of kidnapping, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of criminal restraint, one could of simple assault against the baby and two counts of simple assault against Zander.
Roy has maintained his innocence. He did not take the stand in his own defense Friday as his attorney previously indicated. The defense rested after calling several witnesses that in the defense's view presented holes and inconsistencies in what Downs told police and hospital officials.
In closing arguments, Public Defender Wade Harwood faced the jury and told them his client was innocent.
"Justin is not guilty," said Harwood, repeating the phrase for almost each count against him. "The evidence the state has given you is Heather's story - there is no physical evidence that Justin is the one who caused Strider's injuries. All you have is Heather's story, and Heather has something to hide," said Harwood.
He said the proof is that she told Zander not to tell anyone what happened before she took Strider to the hospital. He attacked Downs' credibility on many fronts, including reference to a witness who said she couldn't be trusted to tell the truth.
Harwood asked jurors to consider Zander's testimony that he had heard a thud coming from the bedroom when he was in the living room with Roy. He said another witness said when Strider awoke in the hospital, he was afraid of his mother.
He said Downs' had a motive to lie - to "cover up her tracks for what she did."
"Justin is not guilty. He did not kidnap Strider. He did not cause Strider's injuries. Heather did. That is why you will find Justin not guilty on each and every charge," said Harwood.
Deputy County Attorney Susan Boone could not have disagreed more.
In her closing arguments, Boone laid out a scenario that Roy, depressed over missing his own children, whom he hadn't seen in a year, was drunk after drinking a six-pack of 16-ounce beers and two cocktails, and he was out of medication he took to curb his temper. He took his rage out on a two-and-a-half year old boy, she said.
"This trial is not about Heather Downs as a mother . this trial is about two little boys who got a piece of Justin's rage," she said, adding that it was Strider who suffered the brunt of Roy's rage, almost paying with his life.
She pointed to several angry and profane text messages he sent to Heather Downs about the boys. Boone said the messages provide insight as to what the defendant was thinking in the days "leading up to the brutal pummeling of Strider."
She said Roy was "an emotional wreck" in the days leading up to the attacks. She said he lied to a police officer on Dec. 19, 2011, when he told him he hadn't been drinking.
"Why lie about something like that unless he's covering his tracks?" she said to the jury. Roy's behavior, hiding in his trailer from the police when they arrived that day, indicates guilt, she said.
"This man knew what he had done and he was scared," Boone said. "I ask you now to hold him accountable for each charge."