Jury takes recess from deliberating in Angelina County child abuse trial

Jury takes recess from deliberating in Angelina County child abuse trial
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: Angelina County Jail
Source: Angelina County Jail

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury has recessed Thursday night after a full-day of testimony and closing arguments in the trial of a Lufkin couple accused of child abuse.

The jury will start back up their deliberations at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.

Andrew Lewis is charged with five counts of injury to a child. His former wife, Amber, is charged with three counts of failure to seek medical attention for her injured child.

Lewis said she first met Andrew Lewis in seventh grade and started dating him when she moved in with her aunt during high school. She said the two moved back to the area when she got pregnant at 17.

Lewis said she gave birth on Jan.6, 2014, and spent the first month at home most of the time with the baby. Lewis said the only problem she had in the first month was when she had to call an ambulance. She said the baby was being fed and the baby started to choke. She said her and her friend called an ambulance to make sure everything was okay.

Lewis said that at four days old, she took her daughter to the doctor for her first check up and that baby showed no signs of any bruising or trouble.

She said she went to the doctor later in January to have a tongue-tie issue fixed on her daughter. She said  the child had no injuries then.

Lewis said she is always careful with her daughter.

"I was not just careful with her because I was with the in-laws for the first time," she said. "I did this because this that is how you take care of a child. I was always very careful with her."

On the day before the baby was taken to the hospital, Lewis said she was at work at Outback and her mother brought the child to her work and they talked about the bruise on her eye. Lewis told her attorney, Ryan Deaton, that her mom and her said they would go to the doctor on Monday.

Lewis said when she left for work on Monday the only thing she noticed was a bruise on her eye. Lewis said she was irritated with her then-husband.

"I don't know if I would say upset but irritated because he was off, so I do not know why he could not do it," she said.

Lewis said she left for work Monday morning and kissed the baby on the head and told her husband that she had an appointment. She said at work she got a call about her daughter being taken to a hospital.

"I broke down," she said. "I broke down and got scared for her."

Lewis said she left her purse at work and did not clock out because that was not important to her at the time.

"We sat in the trauma room for about three hours," she said. "It was so much at the time."

Lewis said she did not ever remember her mother or father doing anything to her baby. She said her brother only held the baby twice.

Lewis then went back to testimony from yesterday where her mother said Lewis was laughing in the car. She said looking back it was inappropriate.

"The whole weekend was stressful, and for a second it was us just getting a chance at normal," Lewis said.

Lewis told prosecuting attorney Clyde Herrington that she talked to her husband about the bruise on the eye and he had no explanation on it.

Lewis agreed that several people approached her and her husband about taking the child to the doctor, but she wanted either her or him to take her. Lewis said that her husband did not take their daughter to the doctor because he had an appointment with their pastor. Lewis said she felt that their pastor would have canceled the appointment for them if he asked.

Lewis told Herrington that the baby was getting Zantac to help with her spitting up but know she knows it could have been from a brain injury. Lewis admitted to stopping the Zantac treatment a week before the baby went to the hospital.

"I thought it wasn't working," she said.

Lewis told Herrington that the only thing she told the hospital she thought that could have hurt the baby at home was the baby falling off the bed at home and off the couch.

Lewis was shown some pictures from the hospital. She began to cry and said she did not look like that the last time she saw her. Lewis said when dealing with investigators, she did not show any emotion because it did not seam real.

"I did not want to believe it," she said.

Lewis told Herrington that in November of 2014, she gave up her parental rights.

"We were told by our lawyers that if we terminated their rights we could lessen our chance to face criminal charges and possibly be involved in her life later on," she said. "We thought if we fought it, there might be a chance that we could never see her again."

After going through the list of injuries with Amber, Herrington asked if Amber ever remembered if her child was in pain. She said no.

Lewis then told Andrew's attorney John Tunnel that she thought Andrew was doing a good job with their child.

Lewis then told Deaton she described Andrew as irresponsible when it came to doing things important.

Lewis agreed with Deaton that she wishes she made a different decision in signing the affidavit to release her parental rights.

Deaton then rested his case.

John Tunnel called Andrew Lewis to the stand.

Lewis said he is now living back in Arlington, but he did move to Hudson with Amber when the child was born.

"We wanted to move out and not live with her parents," he said. "We had a deal worked out that one would work while the other would go to school and then the other would go to school."

Lewis told Tunnel that he did notice the bruise but did not know how it got there.

Lewis said when he went to change her she started twitching, and her eyes rolled back in her head.

Lewis told Herrington the day he noticed the bruise it was yellow and it started to get darker as the day went by.

Lewis said on Saturday, the bruises changed.

"They got a little darker and had more color to them," he said.

Lewis said on the night before she was taken to the hospital, the child did not want to sleep and he kept the child outside of the room so Amber could sleep.

Lewis told Herrington that his did not believe his mother in law Michelle Minkner could have been harmful to his daughter. Herringotn then brought up that Lewis had previously told a counselor that Minkner could have possibly harmed his child.

Lewis told Herrington that he relinquished his rights because he thought he would still be able to have a relationship because if the court terminated the rights then he would not get to see his daughter. Lewis said he did not seek legal advice from any other attorney on the matter.

Lewis told Herrington that he never remembered there being an appointment made for the child at the doctor or that he needed to take her to the doctor.

Lewis told Deaton that Amber and others did express concern over getting the child to the doctor by at least three days before the child was rushed to the hospital. Lewis agreed with Deaton that it was his burden to get the child to the doctor because the other people in the family had to go to work.

Lewis said he knew that there was an appointment being made at 2 p.m. for Monday but he said he made it clear he had an appointment with his pastor at 1:30. Lewis claimed Amber said she could try to get a different time.

Deaton pointed out that the conversation Lewis is describing is different than what Amber Lewis' boss testified about on Wednesday.

Lewis did agree with Deaton that Amber Lewis felt it was important to get to the doctor and that she told him several times that he needed to get to the doctor.

Lewis told Herrington that he became upset when Minkner questioned him about hitting the child.

"I was upset," he said. "This is not something that I would joke around about."

Lewis told Herrington that he never said he tapped the child's head on the changing table and that the only other time, the child fell was off the bed.

All sides rested at 1:30 p.m.

In his closing arguments, Herrington told the jury that the child had the whole life in front of her, but she was constantly injured.

"A third of the children with these injuries die," Herrington said. "Another third live with severe injuries, and the other third has mental problems. It is a miracle that she is alive."

Herrington pointed out that Amber Lewis is not charged with hurting the child but is charged with not getting help.

"If you don't feel like that Amber didn't know anything by March 10, then find her not guilty," Herrington said.

Herrington pointed out though that after March 10, Amber Lewis should have known something and went to the doctor, so the seizure could have been stopped.

Herrington then pointed out that the child was hurt, and the EMT testified to it.

"You heard [EMT] Ivan Tapia get up on the stand and say he was concerned," Herrington said. "You heard him say that by law since he thought there was concern that if the parents said no he could not just leave."

Herrington pointed out that these parents should have been trying to go to the doctor since it's their first child.

Herrington pointed to the history given by Andrew Lewis left out what happened between the child eating and having the seizure.

"It is very sad that parents could do this, but I think between the two of them, Andrew injured the child, and Amber did not protect this child."

Deaton then addressed the jury.

"These are two separate cases," Deaton said. "I feel like Amber is stuck in the middle of the State of Texas versus Andrew Lewis."

Deaton said what happened is horrible but he does not feel Amber Lewis is wrong. Deaton said this is a hindsight situation.

"The state is saying after the fact, we can pick apart Amber Lewis and see what she did wrong," Deaton said. "I think this comes down to an opinion of you as a parent. The state wants to convict my client on your opinion of what a parent should do."

Deaton then claimed that if Andrew Lewis is guilty then the jury has to believe that he was not going to get the child to the doctor because he would be revealed.

"She is fighting things that she doesn't know about," Deaton said. "She said let's get him to the doctor, and he had to manipulate some way for the child not to go to the doctor. She didn't know what she was fighting against."

Deaton said that when Amber Lewis first saw the bruise, she did not want to think Andrew did it.

"It is not abnormal to think that way," Deaton said. "No one wants a loved one to be the reason for an injury"

Deaton pointed out that Amber saw the bruise and didn't do anything, but neither did her parents, Andrew Lewis, or his parents."

"She has to go way outside the norm to be guilty and she has not done it at this point. It is not a gross deviation. I have three kids and trust me it is not a gross deviation to not go to the hospital."

Deaton pointed out that she was fighting a force she didn't know and thought Andrew Lewis would take the child like they discussed.

"I think what this case comes down to is your opinion as to what a reasonable person would do and whether she deviated from that," Deaton said. "Are we going to felonize someone over your opinion versus my opinion of, 'Are we going to go to the ER over a bruise?'"

Deaton pointed out that older adults saw it and could have stepped in but didn't.

Tunnel then talked to the jury and quoted from the constitution that citizens are to be presumed innocent until guilt is proven. Tunnel did not think his client is guilty.

"It makes it difficult for the state to obtain a conviction, and it should be difficult," Tunnel said.

Tunnel said it is better to let 10 guilty people go then let one innocent person be sent to prison.

"A child has been hurt," Tunnel said. "No question about that. Serious injury. No question there. It's a child. No doubt. Can they find my client guilty?"

Tunnel pointed out that several times video or audio could have been put into evidence but it wasn't.

"No one came here who had seen Andy Lewis do anything wrong with the child," Tunnel said.

Tunnel pointed that Andrew was the outsider in the family.

"Andrew is being accused because he is the last one seen with the child," Tunnel said. "It overlooks the things that the person that called 911 and brought this to CPS and got the investigation going is Andy Lewis."

Tunnel said if it is a reasonable possibly that someone other than Andrew Lewis is guilty then that requires the jury to find him not guilty.

Herrington said it is very clear that abuse happened.

"It is clear neither went to the doctor on the bruising," Herrington said. "I don't think either wanted to. I think they wanted to let the bruises go away."

Herrington said he does not believe Amber Lewis wanted something bad to happen to her child. Herrington also wanted to know who else could have done it.

Herrington said that Andrew had to have been the one that did it because of the brain bleed had to have been close to the time that the seizure happened, and Andrew was the only one there.

"If a history is not important, then why would a doctor take time to participate in an interview?" Herrington asked.

Herrington pointed out that babies may not be able to talk, but they know people, and the baby on several instances tried to alarm people with how she acted when her dad was around."

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