Daughters tell of harsh discipline in the case of a Waggaman man accused of beating son to death

Saturday, 18 November 2017, 12:32:08 AM. A Waggaman boy is set to testify Friday for the state in the second-degree murder trial of his father, who is accused of beating the boy’s brother, Jalen Daniel, to

A Waggaman boy is set to testify Friday for the state in the second-degree murder trial of his father, who is accused of beating the boy’s brother, Jalen Daniel, to death over bad grades. 

The boy’s sisters testified Thursday night that they stopped staying at their father's home on Clifford Court because he was too strict and prone to hitting the children when they misbehaved. 

Juresa Daniel, 20, testified that her father, Furnell Daniel Sr., once pinned Jalen to the stairs with a foot in his back, whipping him with a belt.

She said Daniel beat her on one occasion with a clothes hanger and another with his fist, describing how his wrist watch gave her a black eye.

“Were you scared of your father?” Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Truhe asked.

“Yes,” Daniel replied, her father sitting a few feet away in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna.

Juresa Daniel said she agreed to testify because “him hitting on us eventually lead to Jalen’s death.”

Under cross examination by defense attorney Lionel Burns, she said, “I would never want to hurt my father but what he did was wrong.”

She said she couldn’t live under her father's rules as she got older.

Savaria Kelly, 22, who is not Daniel’s biological daughter but called him a “father figure,” testified about a visit when she and another sister were young girls. She said Daniel whipped them both, one for leaving the tie off a loaf of bread and another for not ironing her clothes properly. 

She recalled seeing Daniel chase Jalen around the house with a belt one day when he wouldn’t stay still for a beating.

Daniel is accused of beating Jalen with a wooden crossbar taken from a baby’s crib, fracturing the boy’s kneecap, patella, wrist, hand and skull. Prosecutors say Daniel didn’t call 911 until the next day, Feb. 6, 2016, after Jalen had stopped breathing and had gone into cardiac arrest as the bleeding inside his skull put pressure on his brain.

The boy never regained consciousness and died at the hospital two days later. An autopsy found he had suffered three blows to the head, one of which caused the fracture. A splinter of wood was removed from above his right eye.

Doctors testified he bruises on the boy’s body were consistent with defensive wounds.

Daniel told investigators that the boy hurt himself falling while running away from him in the living room. Burns has also noted family members in the house at the time heard a thud while Jalen was in the bathtub alone.

Daniel, 45, faces life in prison if he is convicted of second-degree murder, though the jury could convict him on lesser charges, including manslaughter and negligent homicide.

Dr. Susan Garcia, a retired forensic pathologist testifying as an expert witness, said Thursday that the bleeding inside Jalen’s skull put pressure on his brain, causing it to push through the opening in the base of the skull.

The pressure on the brain stem, she testified, renders the victim unable to breathe or maintain a heartbeat.

Medical witnesses for the prosecution testified Jalen could have lived had he been taken to the hospital sooner.

Burns pressed medical witnesses as to whether the boy’s injuries would have gotten worse in their appearance as he was kept on a respirator to allow his organs to be taken for donation.

Burns sought several times to ask questions of witnesses about the “selling” of Jalen’s organs, though the judge often sustained objections by prosecutors, who said it was irrelevant. He asked the boy’s mother why his organs were donated – she said it was because it’s what he would have wanted – and in his opening statements he referred to organ donation as “real Frankenstein stuff.”

A verdict is expected Friday. 

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