Four-month-old Rian Orr woke up “fine and happy” for her early morning feeding on Aug. 9, 2010, according to the testimony of the lead Juneau police detective who investigated the infant’s death.
It was only after David J. Paul took the baby to the bathroom to make her a bottle, where he later admitted accidently dropping her on her head and shaking her, that Orr started to become fussy, said Det. Kim Horn.
“Jackie said the baby woke up fine and happy, and then David took the baby to the bathroom to make a bottle, and then had come back to change the diaper and the baby had been fussy from that point on,” Horn said from the stand.
She wouldn’t feed during her 9 a.m. feeding. She then began tensing up, then seizing. She was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital around 11 a.m. and died a week later at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center on Aug. 15.
Horn was once again called into Juneau Superior Court on Thursday to testify in the murder case against 23-year-old David Paul, who is accused of killing girlfriend Jacqueline M. Orr’s baby.
The King County Medical State Examiner in Seattle ruled Orr’s death a homicide from blunt force injury, with a soft object to the head. Doctors also found older injuries (multiple rib fractures, a femur fracture and bruising on her chest).
Prosecutors argue Paul caused the head injury by either dropping the baby, or by shaking her, and the bruises from gripping her too tightly.
The case has not yet gone to trial; it’s slated for July. But Judge Philip Pallenberg agreed to hold evidentiary hearings to resolve factual disputes before he has to decide whether to suppress statements and dismiss the indictment against Paul.
Paul’s attorney Eric Hedland requested the hearings after he asked the judge to suppress statements obtained by police after Paul had invoked his right to an attorney, which was ignored.
During Thursday’s hearing, Hedland grilled Horn during cross examination on why Paul was a suspect in Orr’s death, but not the mother, Jacqueline.
“I think I can show that there was an absolute rush to judgment without any objective foundation that Detective Horn was biased from the start and decided that Mr. Paul’s a suspect,” Hedland told the judge.
Horn testified she made up her mind Paul was the suspect at BRH after talking with doctors who suspected the injuries were inflicted, and after interviews with both Jacqueline and Paul at BRH.
“When I went to the hospital at that time, both caregivers were suspects,” Horn said.
But they gave differing timelines of the morning’s events in their interviews, Horn said, which made Paul the primary suspect in the case.
Horn said she concluded Paul was the suspect because he was alone with the baby during the nighttime feedings.
“He was the only one not in Jackie’s presence with the baby for a short period of time,” Horn said.
Horn said it never dawned on her to polygraph Jacqueline.
Hedland continued his questioning and asked why police didn’t Mirandize Paul during prolonged police interviews at the JPD headquarters three days after Orr’s death on Aug. 18, 2010.
“He was not in custody, and so I did not read him his Miranda rights,” Horn said, though conceding it was up to the court to decide whether Paul was “in custody” or not.
Hedland asked Horn if she didn’t read Paul his rights because she was worried he would stop talking.
“It makes is harder to interrogate somebody or somehow might negatively affect the interrogation if you Mirandize somebody. Are you worried about that?” Hedland asked.
“In some cases,” Horn replied.
“All right, so you don’t want to Mirandize someone because if you Mirandize them that’s just another way for them to stop talking, right? So why even take that chance unless you have to. Right?” Hedland asked.
“Yeah,” Horn said.
Paul had told police he wanted a lawyer after Horn and another investigator, Sgt. Russ Haight, asked him to take a polygraph. But instead of ending the interrogation, Haight asked Paul “Is there a reason you don’t want to take a polygraph?”
Paul answered “no,” and then after discussing the matter for about 20 minutes, Paul consented to take the polygraph. Only then was he read his full Miranda rights.
Police told him he failed the important questions during the polygraph, and again during the post-polygraph interrogation.
Horn tried to get Paul to confess to wrongdoing by telling Paul he was holding Orr too tightly, which caused the bruising.
“We don’t believe it was on purpose,” Hedland quoted Horn, reading from the interrogation transcript. “We believe that maybe you didn’t know you were hurting her at all this time. We believe you’re sorry. Jackie just needs to know that you’re sorry and an accident because she’s willing to stand by you through this because she loves you because she needs help. But you need to help give her closure ... There’s something else that happened this morning that you’re not telling us.”
Horn said trying to get Paul to confess to causing the bruising was a was a tactic called minimization, where police get a suspect to confess by admitting to a less serious crime as something to build on.
“The idea is if you get him to admit to that and then you move into, ‘Well, now that you’ve admitted that, you’ve gone halfway so give us what you really want,’” Hedland said.
In the post-polygraph interview, Paul admitted to holding Orr in his arms and accidently dropping her to the floor, according to Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp.
“When I picked her up she was crying so I said ‘Hey!’ and shook her only one time. I had my hands to her side, my pinkies holding her back and my thumbs tight on her chest. When I did that her head flopped about three times. It went back once, forward, back and she caught herself. I may have squeezed hard enough to cause the bruises on her chest. She stopped crying after that,” Kemp wrote in recent motion.
One of the doctors who examined Orr at Harborview, Dr. Naomi Sugar, testified the baby did not appear to die from an “impact injury,” from hitting her head on a hard surface, since there was no skull fracture.
Sugar said it was probably something more akin to Shaken Baby Syndrome, which is now referred to as Abusive Head Trauma.
A third evidentiary hearing wll be held Friday. Hedland said he wants to call Haight to the stand.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.