ANDERSON — During jury selection for the murder trial of his client Dylan Tate, defense attorney Cody Cogswell warned prospective jurors that the trial would be "incredibly personal."
That was especially true for at least one juror who could not stop crying after she looked at photos taken of 18-month-old Harlan Haines when the trial started on Thursday.
At least three women on the jury, which consists of 12 jurors and three alternates, were visibly shaken by the photos taken of Harlan after Tate brought him to Community Hospital Anderson.
The juror who told the court during jury selection that his son teases him because he cries when he watches Folgers coffee commercials, had a grim expression on his face when he looked through the photos submitted into evidence.
Tate is on trial for murder, charged with Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death, Level 1 felony child molesting and Level 6 felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Authorities say Tate brutally beat, tortured and molested Harlan before his death and tried to cover the murder and the injuries inflicted on Harlan with a fake car accident on Feb. 23, 2018.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Koester told jurors Harlan did not die until two days after the car accident, but at the end of the trial there will be no doubt in their mind that Tate killed Harlan that night.
Opening statements in the case began Thursday afternoon with Koester describing the bruises that covered Harlan from "head to toe" and the injuries he suffered before his death.
Koester also talked about the paper towel found blocking Harlan's airway the night he was taken to the emergency room and that the toddler's mother plans to testify about the morning Tate took her son to the hospital without waking her.
On Feb. 23, Harlan made one mistake, Koester said. The toddler started to cry while Tate was drinking a bottle of Apple Crown Royal whisky, sending Tate into an uncontrollable rage that cost "that baby his life," Koester said.
"He never called 911," Koester told jurors.
He said medical professionals at Community Hospital Anderson "miraculously" got Harlan's heart to start beating again, but the child never regained consciousness.
"He was dead when he came to the hospital," Koester said.
Cogswell, however, said Tate was trying to save Harlan, not take his life.
He told jurors Tate got up around 4 a.m. and saw Harlan struggling to breathe. Cogswell said Tate had been drinking, but when he realized Harlan was gasping for air, he grabbed the toddler and rushed him to the hospital.
Cogswell said Tate was in a state of panic and "attempting to help" Harlan.
Dressed only in a pair of jeans and no shoes, Tate ran out of the home into the dark in the early morning hours of Feb. 23. Harlan was wearing only a diaper.
Cogswell said jurors will have to set emotions aside, look at the facts and put themselves in Tate's position to understand why his client did the the things he did.
He said there is no evidence Harlan woke up crying, causing Tate to attack the child.
"If there was evidence of that, that would be the direct evidence we talked about," Cogswell. "That would be pretty compelling. In fact, that would probably end this case. It's not going to happen."
Harlan's father, Jackie Haines, sat at the back of the courtroom during the opening statements and immediately left after they were given.
Nine witnesses testified on Thursday, including the nurses who first cared for Harlan when he was brought to the hospital. They described the scratches all over his body and bruising that appeared in various stages of healing over an extended period of time.
Two nurses talked about the burn on Harlan's back that appeared to be a cigarette burn.
Tate's trial resumes on Friday at 8:30 a.m. in Madison County Circuit Court 1 before Judge Angela Warner Sims.
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