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Jury begins deliberations in Davis murder trial

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Tayvon Davis murder trial

Tayvon Davis, left, looks into the gallery while seated next to public defender Laury Kleinschmidt June 9 during the first day of his first-degree murder trial in Woodbury County District Court. Jurors on Wednesday found him guilty of the August 2018 death of 19-month-old Maelynn Myers.

SIOUX CITY -- Making the final argument to find Tavon Davis guilty of killing Maelynn Myers, prosecutors put up a photo of the toddler hooked up to a ventilator in the hospital.

There was only one explanation for the 19-month-old's condition on that day in Aug. 22, 2018, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Nicole Leonard said.

"That little girl didn't end up this way because of CPR. That little girl ended up this way because the defendant repeatedly beat her until her body broke down and couldn't take it anymore," Leonard told jurors shortly before they began their deliberations.

Before Wednesday's closing arguments, a defense medical expert testified for a second time, saying that many of Maelynn's injuries could have been caused by Davis' CPR attempts to revive her after she became unresponsive while in his care.

Public defender Laury Kleinschmidt said doctors who testified for the state said only that blunt-force trauma caused Maelynn's fatal injuries, but none offered any explanations for how Davis could have caused them.

"It's a case about the search for a reason why and the search for someone to blame for the loss of a child," Kleinschmidt said. "Nobody can tell you what they think did it."

Davis, 26, of Sioux City, is charged in Woodbury County District Court with first-degree murder, child endangerment resulting in the death of a child and multiple acts of child endangerment. Prosecutors believe he injured Maelynn numerous times in the days leading up to Aug. 22, when Davis and Maelynn's grandmother rushed the little girl to a Sioux City emergency room. She was transferred to Children's Hospital in Omaha, where she never regained consciousness and died three days later.

During six days of witness testimony and evidence, jurors became familiar with a long list of Maelynn's injuries: bruising on her forehead and back, bleeding throughout the brain, a torn blood vessel to her left kidney, hemorrhaging in both eyes, the abdomen and in the muscles at the back of her neck, bone fractures -- both new and healing -- in both legs, an arm, two vertebrae and several ribs. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide caused by complications from blunt-force injuries.

Medical experts disagreed on the possible causes. The state's witnesses concluded the injuries were caused by trauma of a force similar to being in a car crash. The defense expert disagreed, offering alternative medical explanations that, he concluded, showed the injuries were accidental. The fact doctors couldn't agree should raise enough reasonable doubt in jurors' minds to acquit Davis, Kleinschmidt said

"This isn't an intentional murder," she said.

Maelynn had numerous illnesses and trips to the doctor in the weeks leading up to her death. They began once Davis was spending more time alone caring for the girl while her mother, Shannon Myers, was at work, said Assistant Woodbury County Attorney Kristine Timmins, the lead prosecutor.

"She wasn't in a car accident. She wasn't in a multi-story fall. She was with the defendant," Timmins said.

Davis told investigators he dropped Maelynn after giving her a bath and she stopped breathing. His attempts at CPR were unsuccessful, but she was revived in the emergency room before she was transferred to Omaha. As the defense expert testified, those CPR attempts after a tragic accident explain her injuries, Kleinschmidt said.

"Tayvon Davis is not a monster," Kleinschmidt said. "Tayvon Davis did not beat Maelynn to death."

If found guilty of first-degree murder, Davis would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. If jurors find him not guilty of first-degree murder, they may consider lesser offenses, including second-degree murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, willful injury and assault.

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