A Mecklenburg jury deliberated about three hours Tuesday without reaching a verdict on whether Andre Hampton committed murder in the November 2008 beating death of his 23-month-old son.
Hampton, 27, is on trial for first-degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Jurors will resume their deliberations Wednesday.
Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting began his closing arguments on Tuesday by slamming the belt used to beat Ellijah Burger against the prosecution table.
“Only Ellijah understands the hell and torture he went through that day,” Bunting told the jurors.
Bunting said prosecutors didn’t have to prove Hampton intended to kill his son. They only had to prove what he did to Ellijah.
Hampton knew exactly what he was doing, the prosecutor said. “He wasn’t mad,” Bunting said. “He didn’t lose control. This child was going to do what he said.”
“He just kept hitting him over and over and over again until Ellijah couldn’t resist him.”
Ellijah was beaten inside a motel room at a complex then called AARCS Residence Suites on South Tryon Street, where his family had been living.
Hampton confessed during a videotaped interview to beating Ellijah with a toothbrush, a hairbrush and a belt. His son, he told the homicide detective, wouldn’t eat his soup.
Hampton told jurors on Monday that he loved his son and didn’t intend to kill him. His son’s birth, he said, was “like a dream come true.”
“I was proud of him,” he said. “He was a good kid. Every day I loved him even more.”
Bunting showed the jury portions of Hampton’s confession. After Hampton was seen demonstrating how he struck Ellijah’s fingers with a toothbrush, Bunting asked jurors: “Can you see the love he had for his son in that video?”
Bunting also showed jurors the autopsy photos of Ellijah’s battered body. “There’s barely a spot on this child that is not abraded, bruised or broken ... from the top of his head to the very bottom of his feet,” the prosecutor told jurors.
“This child died from an abusive beating … all because he wouldn’t eat his soup.”
Turning to the jurors, Bunting said: “You tell him what he did was abuse. You tell him what he did was inhumane. You tell him what he did was torture. You tell him what he did was murder.”
Defense attorney Norman Butler told jurors during his closing arguments that Hampton never intended to kill Ellijah and there is no proof that he did.
Butler asked what motive Hampton would have had to kill his son. “There is none,” he said.
The defense attorney also asked why Hampton didn’t stop beating the child. “He doesn’t know. Nobody knows,” he told the jurors.
Butler told jurors Hampton was trying to discipline and punish his son. “He did it in an inappropriate way,” he said.
But Butler urged the jurors to consider who Hampton really is. He reminded them that Hampton had been beaten while growing up. “He’s not a monster,” the defense lawyer said.
“He did not set out to torture this child,” Butler said. “He thought he was doing the right thing. He thought he could help the child by making him eat.”
But Butler said Hampton lost control while beating Ellijah.
“Something got ahold of him,” he told jurors. “He doesn’t know why ... I don’t know why.”