Superior Court Judge Forrest Bridges today denied a defense motion to declare a mistrial and sentence Andre Hampton to life in prison for beating his 23-month-old son to death in November 2008.
Defense attorney Norman Butler told the judge there was no reasonable possibility jurors would agree on a punishment for Hampton. Butler said that about half of the jurors on Monday appeared to be stone-faced.
The jurors have now deliberated at least 14 hours over three days.
Hampton was convicted two weeks ago of first-degree murder in the death of Ellijah Burger.
If the jurors cant reach a unanimous decision on the punishment, Superior Court Judge Forrest Bridges will sentence Hampton, 27, to life in prison without parole.
Hampton confessed during a videotaped interview to beating Ellijah with a toothbrush, a hairbrush and a belt. His son wouldnt eat his soup, he told the detective.
Hampton told jurors he loved his son and didnt intend to kill him.
The jurors are weighing one aggravating circumstance and 28 mitigating circumstances in deciding whether Hampton should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison.
The aggravating circumstance: that the killing of Ellijah was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.
Among the mitigating circumstances:
• Ellijahs killing was committed while Hampton was under the influence of a mental or emotional disturbance.
• Hampton was physically abused while growing up when he was beaten by his mother and the men in her life.
• Hampton had financial, transportation, housing and childcare problems during the months leading up to Ellijahs murder.
• Hampton had a positive employment history at Food Lion and Walmart.
The jurors must decide whether the mitigating circumstances are insufficient to outweigh the aggravating circumstance, and if so, whether the aggravating circumstance is sufficiently substantial to call for the imposition of the death penalty.
The judge must impose the sentence the jurors recommend.
Assistant District Attorney Bill Stetzer had urged jurors during his closing arguments to put Hampton on death row.
The prosecutor told jurors that Ellijah had suffered a slow, agonizing death. He said Hampton must pay for what he did.
If hes old enough to have children to murder, hes old enough to face the consequences for what he has done, the prosecutor said. What happened was not inappropriate discipline. This was child abuse. It was torture. It was murder.
Defense lawyer Norman Butler asked jurors to spare Hamptons life.
Is his life not worth something? Butler asked. Im pleading for you not to kill Andre Hampton.
Today you have an opportunity to save a life. What good is killing him?
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