Lashinna Burger told jurors Wednesday that she has forgiven Andre Hampton for beating their 23-month-old son to death in November 2008.
It killed me, Burger said of her sons death. Now Im OK. Ive found peace. I forgive him.
Burger was the last witness to testify for the defense before Hamptons lawyers rested their case in the punishment phase of their clients murder trial. Hampton, 27, was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the death of Ellijah Burger.
The jurors must now decide whether Hampton is sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
Hampton confessed during a videotaped interview to beating Ellijah with a toothbrush, a hairbrush and a belt. His son, he told the homicide detective, wouldnt eat his soup.
During cross-examination by a prosecutor Wednesday, Lashinna Burger told the jurors that Hampton had physically abused her. She said shed forgiven him.
Burger testified how shed taken out a restraining order against Hampton and how Hampton had taken Ellijah away from her.
She testified about a text message that Hampton had sent her. If you want to discuss your son with me, you have to get rid of the restraining order, the message said.
Burger said shed forgiven him.
You forgave him all the time, didnt you? Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting asked.
Yes, Burger replied.
Burger also told jurors that Hampton had whipped Ellijah with a belt before. She also said she was scared of Hampton because he carried a gun.
Outside the courthouse after her testimony, Burger told reporters that she couldnt judge Hampton.
Im a Christian now, she said. If I were to tell them to put him to death, Id be judging him. I have no right to judge him.
Effort to save Hampton
In other testimony Wednesday, a friend of Hamptons called him very sweet.
He is one of the kindest and gentlest souls I have ever encountered in my life, Melanie Rose told jurors.
Rose also called Hampton a proud father. He was in love with that child, she said. He was his baby.
Defense attorneys Norman Butler and Joe VonKallist are trying to save Hamptons life. Theyve presented evidence that Hampton suffered from chronic depression and an anxiety disorder and was under stress trying to provide for his family. Theyve also called witnesses to testify about the beatings Hampton received while growing up from the men in his mothers life.
April Gadson, Hamptons mother, acknowledged Tuesday that she, too, had spanked her children. She used a belt, paddle, switch, brush and shoe to administer the whippings. She spanked them, she said, to enforce what I had told them not to do.
I was especially hard on my boys, Gadson told the jurors. They had to grow up to be men. There were going to be black men in this society. They were going to have it hard.
The toddlers suffering
Prosecutors have tried to show that Ellijahs murder was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel.
Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Owens testified that Ellijah endured a tremendous amount of pain and suffering while being beaten to death.
Owens told the jurors he has performed about 3,000 autopsies a little more than 200 of them on children. The medical examiner compared the injuries Ellijah suffered to those of the other children he had performed autopsies on.
The number of injuries far exceeds the number Ive seen on the other children, Owens told jurors. If I added up all the injuries on the other children, I wouldnt have as many as were on Ellijah.
Veteran homicide Detective Garry McFadden testified that Ellijahs injuries were unlike anything he had ever seen.
McFadden said he has investigated more than 800 homicides during his 21 years as a homicide investigator. He described the injuries that Ellijah had sustained all over his body, including on his knuckles and the bottoms of his feet.
There were too many for me to count, he told the jurors.
A few minutes earlier, outside the presence of the jury, McFadden testified: It is the worst Ive ever seen.