ANDERSON — Jurors took less than an hour to find Dylan Tate guilty of murder and about 15 minutes to determine he would serve life without parole in prison Friday.
Tate, 28, was convicted of murder, Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death, Level 1 felony child molesting, Level 6 felony operating a vehicle with blood-alcohol content of greater than 0.15 with a passenger, and Level 6 felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
He attended his trial wearing a bulletproof vest beneath a dress shirt and tie.
During opening statements, Madison County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Koester said Tate brutally beat, tortured and molested 18-month-old Harlan Haines before his death in February 2018 and tried to cover up the murder and the injuries inflicted on Harlan by crashing his car into a pole. Harlan was declared dead two days after the crash.
Tate's attorney, Cody Cogswell, told jurors Tate woke up and found Harlan struggling to breathe about 4 a.m. Without waking Harlan's mother, Jennifer Harris, Tate grabbed the child and tried to rush him to the hospital but crashed his car and had to flag down a passing car.
Jurors began deliberations at 12:38 p.m. Friday in Madison Circuit Court 1. A verdict was reached at 1:37 p.m.
Security was heightened inside the courtroom during closing arguments. Sixteen Madison County Sheriff's deputies and Anderson police officers were present when the verdict was read.
During deliberations of the penalty phase, the state submitted all the testimony and evidence presented in the trial. Cogswell did not present any evidence.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Grey Chandler opened the penalty phase with a single question about when a case deserved a life without parole sentence.
"If not now, when?" Chandler asked.
He said Tate intentionally killed Harlan while molesting him and he beat, burned and tortured the child before his death.
Cogswell said Tate blacked out during the incident and his level of intoxication should be used as a consideration for his actions.
If jurors had not sentenced Tate to life without parole, he was facing between 45 and about 117 years in prison.
"This was a baby," said Koester during closing arguments of the penalty phase.
He said Tate should "not ever see the light of day."
Following Tate's trial, Cogswell said this was his first murder trial, but he had extensive experience in high-end jury trials that involved felony crimes.
"It's just really tricky," he said. "You've got to watch what the juries are hooked onto, what they are accepting and what they're not. What is real persuasive and what's not.
"This jury was pretty even keeled," he added. "They were responsive to witnesses so you could definitely tell they were paying attention."
Cogswell said he had to speak with Tate, but his client has indicated he will appeal the verdict.
Harris is charged with Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in her son's death. She was granted "use immunity" for Tate's trial, meaning her testimony cannot be used against her in a criminal proceeding.
Her trial date has not been set.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings stood behind his prosecutors in the courtroom as the verdict of the penalty phase was read.
"You still look at photos of that child and think, how can you do that?" he said. "For someone who was laughing when his trial began, (Tate) wasn't laughing at the end."
A formal sentencing hearing for Tate's life without parole conviction is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 9 in Madison Circuit Court 1.
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