Jury finds Lufkin man not guilty in co-sleeping death trial
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) -
A jury has found a Lufkin man not guilty in the death of his two-month old infant, who died while he was sleeping with him and his wife in 2010.
The jury deliberated the case for about six hours.
"It was very good, very nerve-racking," Mark Clark said. "All I can say is prayers do work. It was very stressful I was shaking the whole time."
Clark and his wife, Vanessa, were indicted in 2011 and charged with child endangerment. Investigators said the Clarks fell asleep with baby Tristan in the bed around 11:30 p.m. They woke up to check on the baby and he was unresponsive.
In 2009, the couple was investigated for the death of another child who died while sleeping in the bed with them. An autopsy report of the first death said Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was the cause. No trauma was found.
Clark has a charge of assault pending. Prosecuting attorney said the case has not yet gone before a grand jury and would not comment on whether it would. Clark was arrested in July 2011 after police said he assaulted his wife.
At the residence, officers spoke to Vanessa Clark, who said her husband threw her to the ground and punched her while holding her down by placing his knees on her chest. She said he then used a handgun to strike the back of her head. She said she managed to get up and dial 911 and Mark Clark drove away from the area.
Vanessa Clark obtained a restraining order on her husband then, which appears to no longer be enforced, as the two embraced after the verdict was read.
Summa started closing arguments claiming the Clarks had been educated on the risks of co-sleeping after the death of their son, Christian, in 2009.
Summa claims Clark's actions placed Tristan in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury.
Summa said the number of people sleeping in the bed made it an unsafe place for Tristan.
"There were two adults and another child in the bed, heightening the risk, it's a bad idea even with one adult," said Summa.
He said medications Clark was taking tend to make people drowsy or sluggish, adding greater risk to sleeping with a child.
"Just because she is more guilty, doesn't make him not guilty," Summa said.
Clark's attorney, Bill Agnew, began his arguments saying Clark went to sleep before his wife and woke up to tragedy, as he lost his son.
"No matter what ya'll do we'll never know what happened," Agnew said to the jurors.
Agnew referred to Clark's interview, claiming "He was clearly distraught."
Agnew said under any set of circumstances Mark was on the other side of the bed than Tristan. All he did was go to sleep.
After the death of Christian in 2009, Agnew said Clark took steps to become a better parent.
"No matter what happens today he will carry this pain for the rest of his life," said Agnew.
Prosecutor Dale Summa said to the jury that Tristan's death was a tragic and Clark was partially responsible.
"A parent has a duty to protect a minor child, what this boils down to is what degree of responsibility does the defendant have to what going on in his own bed," said Summa.
The jury began deliberating around 10 a.m.
"It's a hard case I knew they we'regoing to struggle with and I mean It just shows that they went over theevidence thoroughly," said Agnew.
"It was very nerve racking all I can sayis prayers do work, It was very stressful, very rough as you could tell I wasshaking the whole time," said Clark.
"He gave a statement at a timewhen he was very, very, very raw emotional and everything he said, he wassaying in a way that I don't think two years later you could get across withthe same emotion and the same feeling and I think it played a tremendous part,"said Agnew.
"The mother Vanessa Clark, is theone who physically put the child in the same bed and that child was laying nextto her," said Summa.
"Mark was asleep he didn't putthe baby in the bed his role was different than hers," said Agnew.