A North Ogden teenager charged with second-degree murder was convicted Friday of the lesser charge of manslaughter for the Sept. 10, 1990, beating death of his infant daughter.
Robert B. Morgan showed no emotion when the verdict was read. Second District Judge David Roth set sentencing for July 10. Morgan could be sentenced to serve from one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. He remains free on a $5,000 bond.The five-woman, three-man jury spent about eight hours deliberating Thursday and another four hours Friday before reaching their verdict.
Morgan was on trial for second-degree murder, a first-degree felony, and if convicted on that charge he could have been sentenced to life in prison. The jury panel had four choices: second-degree murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide or not guilty.
Three-month-old Ashlee Morgan died when her father hit her in the stomach during a diaper change. The blow severed her liver, causing her to bleed to death.
In January, Morgan entered a plea of no contest to second-degree murder but was allowed to withdraw his plea because negotiations with the state were unclear to him.
Prosecutors told Morgan they would recommend he serve no more than five years in prison in exchange for his plea, but he withdrew his plea when he learned the recommendation was not binding on the state Board of Pardons.
In closing arguments Thursday, Deputy Weber County Attorney Bill Daines told the jury they should find Morgan guilty of second-degree murder because he intentionally beat his baby daughter to death.
"This is the testimony of the body of the baby. . . . The baby is helpless. She's totally dependent.
"She cannot tell you what hurts," the prosecutor said. "She cannot tell you who is hurting her."
Daines admitted the baby cried a lot because she suffered from colic but said she also cried because she was a victim of child abuse. He said Ashlee had five healing broken ribs inflicted by her father, a skull fracture inflicted by her father, and the fatal blow that almost severed her liver inflicted by her father.
"He (Morgan) didn't like to take care of her," Daines said. "There was no justification for what he did."
But Salt Lake defense attorney Nancy Bergeson tried to persuade the jury to convict Morgan of a Class A misdemeanor negligent homicide charge because her client didn't mean to kill the baby.
She said that the state had failed to prove that Morgan cracked the baby's ribs or caused the skull fracture.
Bergeson did, however, admit that the defendant hit the baby in the stomach because he couldn't get the baby to stop crying and when he changed the baby's diaper, he got "poop" on his hands.
"The bottom line is, he lost it," she continued. "He lost control for a moment and he will regret it for a lifetime."