DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Both the father of a 10-year-old boy who died from dehydration back in 2011, and the child’s twin brother were on the witness stand in Dallas on Thursday. The two testified against the woman they say is responsible for the death of Jonathan James.
While Michael James also faces charges in relation to Jonathan’s death, he was on the stand Thursday for the prosecution, testifying against the boy’s stepmother, Tina Alberson.
It was during the hottest summer on record that 10-year-old Jonathan James was allegedly punished for behaving badly by being forced to stand in a room without air-conditioning, while balancing on a duct-taped “X” marked on the floor. The last time the child was punished, he was in the room for three days, without water.
Jonathan’s twin brother, Joseph, told the court that Alberson told his brother to, “Stand there for five more minutes and be quiet.” But he said even if his brother complied he received no reward. “He still wouldn’t get the water, but if he wasn’t in trouble then he got water.”
Joseph testified his brother would pretend to use the bathroom so he could drink water from the faucet in the bathroom.
If he was caught, Alberson would tell him to leave and go back to his punishment.
The now 12-year-old twin boy said that after being in the room for days his brother looked, “Exhausted, burnt up… he didn’t look like the normal kid that I knew. He just, he looked different.”
Prosecutors say the conditions left Jonathan severely dehydrated and that 911 wasn’t called until the child passed out. His brother testified, “I was going in and she [Alberson] said, ‘Tell B.J. [his stepbrother] to come help.’ And B.J. comes running in and I run in there too and I see him, he’s sitting in the tub and that’s when they pulled him out and started trying to do CPR.”
After receiving the 911 call, paramedics responded and took Jonathon to the hospital. The boy died on July 25.
Alberson’s husband and Jonathan’s biological father, Michael James, testified that he is handicapped, was medicated and did not know his son was being punished so severely. Thursday he told the jury he blames Alberson for Jonathan’s death. “Because I felt like she was the one responsible for, for him ending up the way he did,” he testified.
Even though he testified for the prosecution, James’ testimony can later be used against him when he goes on trial.
Dallas County Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Bernard said in his autopsy he established that water had been restricted.
“My ultimate finding was that he had dehydration,” he said.
Alberson later took the stand in her own defense. She testified she saw no sign that Jonathan was dying in the days before his collapse but admitted she had restricted his water intake.
Alberson is charged with Felony Injury to a Child and if convicted faces up to life in prison.
Closing arguments begin Friday morning.
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