Four months ago today, Nov. 29, 2014, a baby was born at Carolinas Medical Center-Pineville. The baby’s parents were police officers.
“Were,” because both resigned after allegations of neglect against both and charges of abuse against the father.
Prosecutors allege that former York police officer Robert Jeffrey Taylor Jr., 45, harmed the child so badly that the child needs a feeding tube, is in a vegetative state, and will probably be blind.
If he survives at all.
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Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said the severe injuries to Jaxon Jennings Taylor are clearly the result of shaken baby syndrome.
Brackett also says that Jaxon’s mother, Audrey Schurig, who most recently was a sergeant in a supervisory role at the Chester Police Department, was charged with neglect because she failed to protect the baby from Taylor. Her lawyer has made it clear that Schurig is not charged with child abuse.
These two officers, who are not married but lived together, had to make quick judgments in their line of work. Each had to calm heated arguments, look at abused children with welts and broken bones and cuts and decide what to do about it, then collect evidence of abuse if it was there so abusers could harm nobody else.
The badges Taylor and Schurig wore spoke for battered wives, beaten kids. The maimed and injured.
But in a flash, Taylor was accused of the same thing or worse. His son could die, Brackett said.
If that happens, it appears certain that the charges against Taylor will get worse, possibly as far as homicide. Now, if convicted of inflicting great bodily injury, Taylor could spend 30 years in prison.
Jim Boyd, Taylor’s lawyer, disputes not just the claim that Taylor harmed the baby, but shaken baby syndrome in general. Defense lawyers, citing studies, are saying all over America that the phenomenon of shaken baby cases that prosecutors have used for years is junk science.
But only 10 days ago, a father who was not a police officer was convicted of homicide by child abuse in a shaken baby case. The conviction by a jury who heard all the evidence was in the same courtroom that Taylor appeared in at the Moss Justice Center in York Wednesday – a mile from where Taylor worked as a corporal at the York Police Department.
The story was big news in The Herald, running four straight days on the front page, right up until the father was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
The accused, Quentin Evans, also said he didn’t inflict the injuries that looked like a roadmap of abuse. The jury needed less time than it takes to bake a pie to convict Evans.
Kaidence Evans was that baby’s name. She died never having said a word. Quentin Evans will be known for the next 45 years as state Department of Corrections inmate 363391.
Abuse to the point where a child becomes brain damaged, blind or dies, is always news no matter who inflicted the damage – or it should be.
Race doesn’t matter when a baby is hurt. Taylor is white. Evans is black.
Abuse crosses all demographic lines – race, social, money, class, said Michael Shirley, community prevention coordinator for Children’s Trust of South Carolina, an advocacy group that seeks to end child abuse.
Abuse crosses all lines, comes in all colors, hurts kids of all races, said Robert White, co-director of Safe Kids York County, another child advocacy group.
On April 30, those groups, social services agencies, police and prosecutors, will be part of the annual recognition of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
At last year’s event, a family court judge who has fought in war talked of judges brought to tears by the abuse they see.
Brackett, who prosecuted both Evans and Taylor, spoke last year about ending the abuse of children. Stopping violence against those who can’t fight back, who can’t speak, who are just babies.
Taylor – a police officer in York, Lancaster, and best known for more than 15 years in Rock Hill as a road officer and supervisory sergeant – is presumed innocent. Nobody has proven a thing against him, or the mother of his child. The burden of proof is on Brackett.
Taylor is free on bond, wearing an electronic monitor, under house arrest.
During Taylor’s bond hearing Wednesday, dozens of people sat behind him in support.
Nobody sat for the injured child, or if they did they were silent. Nobody except Brackett said anything as the injuries were read.
Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III asked Brackett before setting Taylor’s bond if anyone wanted to speak on behalf of the victim about Taylor’s potentially being released.
There was nobody there.
Brackett stood up. Just moments before, he had spoken of how the baby was being kept alive by a ventilator, his soft crying heard from time to time. This son of two police officers now is in the protective custody of state agents.
A baby who might never see, a baby who might never speak a single word.
Who might not survive.
Brackett stood tall in that courtroom. And he said this, not loudly, because the words themselves were as loud as a train careening through a tunnel:
“I speak for the victim, your honor.”
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org