WOODLAND — Quentin Stone insisted he never harmed his infant son, and a Yolo County jury believed him, finding the Woodland man not guilty of child endangerment Wednesday in connection with baby Samuel Stone’s October 2012 death.
Friends and relatives who supported Stone in court throughout the monthlong trial wept audibly, one of them loudly whispering “Yes!” as the verdicts were read shortly after 11 a.m. in Yolo Superior Court. Stone’s defense attorneys, also in tears, wrapped their client in a tight embrace.
Stone, 40, declined to comment for the time being as he joined his family outside the courthouse following the acquittal.
“This is why we do what we do,” Supervising Deputy Public Defender Monica Brushia said as she and co-counsel Martha Sequeira left the court building. “We got to know our client. We knew in our hearts he hadn’t done anything wrong, and we could feel his pain.”
The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office accused Stone of violently shaking his 3-month-old son, then slamming him against a hard surface, causing massive bleeding to the infant’s brain and other injuries that ultimately led to his death on Oct. 9, 2012, at the UC Davis Medical Center.
Stone, who testified in his own defense over a two-day period, said Samuel suffered an unwitnessed fall from a bed onto a hardwood floor about a month before his death, and possibly was pulled off by his toddler brother Jack. Family doctors declared the infant “fine” during a series of follow-up exams, attributing newly developed episodes of vomiting and limpness to acid reflux.
The trial featured what some court observers dubbed a “battle of the experts,” with doctors brought in by the prosecution saying Samuel’s injuries were consistent with “nonaccidental trauma” and not with a fall. The defense’s medical experts, however, said a plunge from a 3-foot-high bed could have caused the baby’s wounds, particularly if he had pre-existing bleeding to his brain brought on by a difficult birth.
Juror Dave Gill of Davis said in an interview that he sided with the defense for a number of reasons, including his belief that Stone “fits absolutely no profile of a child abuser. There was no proof at all.”
“I believed his story,” added Gill, a technician and father of three sons. “Medical science is not exact at all. As much as people want it to be, it’s not ‘CSI.’ I think this family just had a really bad day — that’s what this is about.”
As the nine-man, three-woman jury filed out of the courtroom, a female juror paused to wave toward Stone’s relatives, while a male juror placed his hand over his heart and nodded at them.
Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount, one of three prosecutors assigned to the case, expressed gratitude to the panel.
“We just appreciate that the jury took the time to hear the case, do what we asked them to do, considered all the evidence and rendered their opinion. That’s all we could ask for,” Mount said.
Davis resident Nancy Yudin, whose daughter Sara Stone — a well-known soccer coach at Davis High School — is the mother of the children, noted that the verdicts came in on her husband Ashley’s birthday.
“Pure joy, relief — it was just the correct verdict,” said Yudin, one of numerous character witnesses who testified in Stone’s defense. With Stone still limited to weekly supervised visits with his surviving sons Jack, 4, and Samuel’s twin Hank, almost 2, “our goal now is to reunify their family. The boys need to be with their dad.”
The jury deliberated three full days and part of Wednesday, at one point notifying Judge Paul Richardson on Tuesday morning that the panel had reached an impasse on count one, the felony child abuse charge. Richardson responded by reading a further jury instruction and ordering further deliberations.
Gill declined to discuss the reason for the impasse but said the instruction — which encouraged a “frank and forthcoming exchange of views” — gave the jury the push it needed.
“Everyone on that jury wrestled to come up with a decision they would feel comfortable with,” Gill said. “We all had our own voices.”
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene