Father sentenced to life in murder of his son (Tennessee)
This story has gotten alot of blog attention, so I wanted to give you the latest update. Pictures of both parents can been seen at the URL listed below. This is such a tragedy and tears at my heart . The children are the ones that suffer at the choices of their parents. Kim
By JAMIE SATTERFIELD, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Knox County jury today convicted a father of killing his 3-month-old son and sentenced him to life in prison.
Blake Delaney Tallant, 33, will have to serve at least 51 years behind bars before he's eligible for parole.
Jurors in Criminal Court deliberated 7.5 hours over two days before finding Tallant guilty of felony murder, second-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and neglect in the August 2002 death of Lex Arson Tallant. They took only 24 minutes to agree on the sentence.
Tallant wept as the jury announced its verdict.
Tallant has been on trial this week in what authorities have said is the most horrific case of child abuse ever investigated in Knoxville.
In the two weeks before his death, Lex sustained 23 broken ribs, a broken arm and a broken leg — all of which went untreated. At the time of his death, his tiny body was a mass of bruises, cuts, tears, burns and scrapes.
Although Lex's father is the one on trial, it was the baby's mother, Sarah Tallant — her role, her testimony, her value as a witness, her character, her psyche and, most of all, her plea deal — who took center stage Thursday as the prosecution and defense team squared off in closing arguments.
Tallant, 30, testified earlier this week against her husband as part of a plea deal brokered between attorney Tom Slaughter and Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols.
Under terms of the plea deal, she would receive a 20-year prison term but would be required to serve only one-third of it before she is eligible for parole. She would get credit for the more than three years she already has served since her arrest.
As part of the agreement, she gave a statement to Nichols in which she failed to accuse her husband of murder but pointed to instances of rough treatment by him that could account for some of the baby's injuries.
On the witness stand, she insisted her husband never intentionally hurt her son and claimed she never saw most of the injuries documented on the boy's body. She conceded both she and her husband were methamphetamine users.
She also disavowed both statements she made to police implicating her husband and parts of her statement to Nichols. It's not clear if her plea deal is in jeopardy as a result.
But Knox County Public Defender Mark Stephens made it a key point in his closing arguments Thursday. Prosecutors Steve Garrett and Marsha Mitchell found themselves defending the agreement on one hand and distancing their case from her on the other.
"Although (plea bargaining) is sometimes necessary, it is not always pretty," Garrett told jurors. "It's not your job to decide what's fair between Sarah Tallant and Blake Tallant. It makes no difference what happens to Sarah Tallant.
"Did we make a mistake making a deal with Ms. Tallant?" Garrett asked. "I don't know. But that deal has nothing to do with whether Blake Tallant is guilty."
Garrett pointed to a tape recording of Sarah Tallant's call for help on the night of her son's death in which she tearfully tells authorities her son isn't breathing.
"Sarah was showing emotion," Garrett said. "(Her husband) almost seems put out that he's having to deal with this. He knows what he's done to that baby. He knows if the police find out he's going to be arrested. I submit that Sarah finally showed some love for this child in the two weeks this child was in such agony."
Stephens was quick to respond.
"The state tells you, ‘Don't worry about Sarah Tallant. Don't worry about the consequences of the plea deal,' " he told jurors. "There's not much she said that's worth believing. She's written letter after letter (to her husband, saying, ‘I love you. We're innocent.' All the while, her attorney is meeting with (Nichols) getting a deal."
Stephens also argued that evidence showed Blake Tallant was on a methamphetamine-cooking trip for most of the final days of Lex's life.
"He's gone most of that time," Stephens said. "She's the exclusive caretaker, and she's taking meth every single day, twice a day."
Mitchell fired back with a closing argument that featured a defense of the plea deal, a layman's look at the "delusional" psyche of Sarah Tallant and haunting photographs of Lex's injuries.
"This baby had all this abuse," she said. "He would have been screaming out in pain. ? Parents should love their children. What did the world look like to this baby? We're just asking for justice for him."
Jamie Satterfield may be reached at 865-342-6308.