65-year sentence in Baby Faith case

Christine Johnson, mother of Baby Faith, was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

A jury handed down a 65-year sentence to Christine Johnson, mother of Baby Faith, in a case that rocked the courthouse with what experts called one of the worst cases of child abuse they had ever seen where the young victim lived.

Even with credit for the two years she spent in jail awaiting trial, Johnson will not be eligible for parole until she serves another 28 years, at which time she will be 50 years old.

The punishment phase of the trial in Judge John Stevens’ court turned into a spectacle of dueling shrinks as defense expert witness Dr. Seth Silverman, a psychiatrist, testified Johnson was mentally challenged and easily manipulated, citing Baby Faith’s father, Darrell Mason, Johnson’s cousin who was 17 at the time of the crime in 2013. Defense lawyer Ryan Matuska argued his client was not the “primary actor” in the abuse. Mason’s name was rarely mentioned in front of the jury and he never appeared in court after his attorney, Terence Holmes, told Judge John Stevens he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. He will be tried on similar charges at a later date.

Prosecution witness Dr. Ray Coxe, a psychologist, never examined Johnson and testified she was not challenged despite notations in her school records that cited her IQ as between 64 and 73.

The jury held Johnson accountable for Baby Faith’s injuries, convicting her of recklessly causing serious bodily injury after she admitted in a videotaped interview with a Port Arthur detective that she “got mad” when Faith Mason’s crying awoke her and she roughly snatched her from her bassinet. Dr. Reena Issac of Texas Children’s Hospital testified it was this action that likely caused Baby Faith’s broken neck and brain bleed.

CASA volunteer Jamie Hogge, Baby Faith’s court-appointed special advocate, described her slow progress over the past two years in her long recovery from severe abuse. Her broken neck has healed but she still cannot walk or talk, making the extent of her brain damage still impossible to determine. Hogge wept as she testified about the first time she was able to hold Baby Faith, who prosecutors hoped to bring to court to show the jury the victim in this case; staffing shortages at the therapeutic foster home where she lives prevented that.

Prosecutors Pat Knauth and Randi King also wept during their closing arguments as the emotions of this case took their toll on jurors, spectators and court personnel alike.

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