02/06/14 — Father to serve 10 years for son's death

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Father to serve 10 years for son's death

By John Joyce
Published in News on February 6, 2014 1:46 PM

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge called it the toughest case in his 30-year career.

Brendan Pemberton, 22, pleaded no contest in Wayne County Superior Court Wednesday to second-degree murder in the death of his 4-month-old son.

Judge Arnold O. Jones sentenced him to a minimum of 10 years in prison. He could have served 40 years.

Pemberton will be credited the more than two years he spent in jail awaiting trial. The judge also recommended him for work release -- a rarity in a second-degree murder plea.

Pemberton, jailed since July 3, 2012, was charged two months after his son's death when autopsy results revealed the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Jaylin's death was ruled a homicide.

In his statement to police, which came during voluntary questioning and before he was read his rights, Pemberton admitted to striking his son.

"I just snapped. I hit Jaylin in the head. I don't know how many times," Delbridge read aloud from the statement.

Pemberton then told investigators he noticed Jaylin was not "looking right," and he called for help.

More than 30 motions were filed by the defense in the course of the proceedings leading up to Wednesday's plea deal, including one to suppress the statement given to police.

Jones said in a previous hearing he would reserve the right to rule on that and other motions at trial, which would have begun Feb. 10.

Defense Attorney William Gerrans all but exhausted every alternative medical reason that could have led to the victim's death. He introduced medical studies describing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other cases tried related to the death of infants.

Still, Gerrans told the court he felt he came up short in defending his client.

In the end, his client's eventual confession to police and the summary of the facts of the case delivered by Delbridge were enough to convince Jones there was sufficient evidence to accept the plea and to find Pemberton guilty.

When it came time for sentencing, Jones reflected on both his relationship with his own father and his experiences as a father.

He recalled something his father would often tell him.

"He would say, 'Arnie, when you aggravated me the most, that is when I loved you the most,'" Jones said.

He returned his attention to the defendant.

"I guess we know when Jaylin aggravated you the most," he said.

Gerrans asked the judge to consider his client's lack of criminal history, his church's continuous support throughout the court process and his wife's enduring commitment to her husband whom she said, "needs to be back home."

Delbridge, when it was his turn to be heard as to sentencing, struggled to describe the difficulty he had in reconciling seeking justice for Jaylin yet not wishing to have to take the matter to trial and see Pemberton found guilty and jailed for life.

"With the death of a child, it is always hard to determine what is a fair and just sentence. I think, with his confession and that he truly did not intend for the child to die, you try to exercise discretion and allow compassion. I hope I did that. I feel like I did," Delbridge said.

Jones sentenced Pemberton to a minimum of 110 months in prison and knocked off 586 days for time served.

Pemberton's mother, Brenda Morrisey-Evans, spoke after sentencing.

She said both the prosecutor and the judge showed her son compassion.

"My son is not a murderer. He is a good boy, a humble child," she said.

She also said she believed it when Delbridge said this was his toughest case in 30 years, but that as Pemberton's mother, nothing could change the fact that she was proud of her son.

"I know he loved his little boy. We all loved out dear Jaylin. (Now) he is allowed to rest in peace."