Teen dad of Baby Faith facing trial

Darrell Mason

Less than a month after securing a conviction of the mother of the battered child known as Baby Faith, prosecutors Pat Knauth and Randi King were back in Criminal District Court in Beaumont preparing for the trial of Darrell Mason, who was 17 when his child by his cousin Christine Johnson was born. 

In the first two months of her life, Faith Mason suffered many horrific injuries before Mason and Johnson had their parental rights terminated while she struggled for life on a ventilator in the neo-natal intensive care unit of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. A jury in Judge John Stevens’ court convicted Johnson of injury to a child causing serious bodily injury and injury to a child by omission. She was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

Now it’s Mason’s turn. Like Johnson, he was charged with two counts of serious bodily injury to a child, both first class felonies carrying possible sentences of 99 years in prison for each offense. In each case, the second charge of injury by omission means that even if they personally did not cause the injury, they did not prevent the other parent from doing so. And the injuries were extensive: two broken arms, two broken legs, a broken neck, a dislocated shoulder and a black eye. Doctors examining the infant discovered blunt force trauma to the head that caused a “severe brain bleed.” She lived, but Baby Faith’s prospects for anything like a normal life are very much in doubt.

Unlike Johnson, Mason has reportedly not admitted causing any of the child’s injuries in interviews with detectives. Testimony in the Johnson trial suggested that while Johnson was a special needs student with an extremely low IQ, Mason was very bright.

In her trial, defense expert witness Dr. Seth Silverman, a psychiatrist, testified Johnson was mentally challenged and easily manipulated. 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 court-appointed attorney, Terence Holmes, told Judge Stevens he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

At the hearing this week, it was revealed that prosecutors have recently offered a plea deal to Mason, who has been in the Jefferson County Correctional Center since shortly after the alleged abuse occurred over two years ago. The state offered a 20-year sentence in exchange for a guilty plea or Mason could go to the judge for punishment that could range from probation to a sentence capped at 25 years. Mason has not yet agreed to either offer, and Holmes told the court they were “still negotiating” with prosecutors. A trial date was set for Dec. 7 should an agreement not be reached.

It is perhaps difficult to convince a young man who has not reached his 20th birthday to accept responsibility for what experts called one of the worst cases of child abuse they had ever seen where the young victim lived.

Should Mason decide to spurn the offer and is convicted by a jury, he could face a sentence equal to the 65 years handed to the child’s mother – or worse.

There would likely be a rerun of emotional testimony from the first trial where 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, but she could make an appearance at Mason’s trial, which could be devastating to his chances.