Todd Boderick was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday – not by a jury of his peers but by a judge acting on his own.
At the close of a 10-day trial – believed to be North Carolina’s first murder case heard without a jury – Superior Court Judge Robert Sumner not only convicted the 28-year-old Charlotte man of killing his infant daughter in 2012, he then sentenced Boderick to life in prison without parole.
Sumner’s dual role of judge and jury was made legal by a 2014 constitutional amendment that allowed so-called bench trials in felony cases if a defendant requested one and the court approved. In another odd twist to the case, Boderick served as his own attorney after another judge ruled that he had forfeited his right to counsel by firing two lawyers and clashing with a third.
After hearing three days of testimony, Sumner deliberated for fewer than 90 minutes before convicting Boderick of killing 6-month-old Keyoni Mouzon.
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The judge’s announcement of the mandatory sentence sent a powerful rush of emotion through the courtroom. The defendant’s grandmother, Johnnie May Boderick, had sat quietly behind the defendant throughout the trial. Now she erupted in sobs and moans before falling to the floor, a half dozen bailiffs descending on her. Two female deputies helped the grandmother to her feet and then walked her from the courtroom – the sound of the woman’s keening echoing from the lobby.
A few feet away, Katina Massey, the dead child’s great aunt, wept in the arms of a bystander. Earlier in the day, her 12-year-old son had covered his ears and broke into loud tears as prosecutor Bill Bunting described the injuries that killed the boy’s cousin.
Boderick’s standby attorney, Calvin Coleman of Shelby, announced an immediate appeal. He said the trial was never a fair one because it pit a defendant with a ninth-grade education against two veteran prosecutors. He also said Boderick had been deprived of expert testimony that could have strengthened his case.
Bunting and co-prosecutor Bill Stetzer declined comment, citing the pending murder charges against Krishay Mouzon, the infant’s mother. Mouzon, handcuffed and shackled, squared off with Boderick in the trial’s most dramatic confrontation – with Boderick cross-examining his former longtime girlfriend about her version of events leading up to their daughter’s death.
Police and paramedics found Keyoni lying on the floor between two hotel beds at the Southern Comfort Inn on Oct. 27, 2012. Her autopsy revealed recurring injuries to most of her body from blows or severe shaking. Some of her ribs had been broken two and three times, and the child had fractures on both sides of her skull, as if she’d been stomped.
Mouzon told the court that Keyoni was acting normally until she left her with Boderick for no more than 30 minutes on the night of Oct. 25. The child never opened her eyes again, Mouzon testified, and when she picked her up, the baby’s body was limp. For almost 48 hours, the couple never sought medical help for the child. After they discovered she had stopped breathing on the night of Oct. 27, they waited another hour before calling 911.
In his 15-minute closing argument Wednesday, Boderick said he did not kill Keyoni, whom he had helped deliver in another hotel room six months before. And, he noted, there were no eyewitnesses to tie him to Keyoni’s long list of injuries.
He challenged Mouzon’s credibility, and said the child could have been hurt by any of the multiple clients from his girlfriend’s prostitution trade who visited the room during the last days of Keyoni’s life. Boderick also said a man, whom he identified earlier in the trial as only Muhammad, lived with the couple and Keyoni until the day before she died.
“Your honor, I am not guilty of these charges,” he said.
Given his turn to speak, an emotional Bunting said Boderick drenched his daughter’s life in pain.
“She was born in a hotel room, she died in a hotel room,” Bunting began. “She suffered broken bone after broken bone. She was shaken, cut and scarred. … Keyoni’s ‘normal’ was everybody else’s nightmare, and her entire life was one slow miserable death.”
Citing medical testimony that Keyoni’s fatal injuries had occurred three to six hours before death, Bunting said Boderick continued to abuse a child who couldn’t open her eyes or raise her arms and legs.
“Todd Boderick had a public trial,” he said, pausing to keep his composure. “Child abuse happens in the shadows, and murder happens in secret. Todd Boderick’s fate will be decided in the open. But Keyoni’s was decided behind the closed doors of a rundown hotel room.
“She’s dead because no one cared about her when she was alive. She deserved better. What she deserves now is justice.”