David Pelletier faces a possible 10-year prison sentence for throwing his fussy 3-month-old daughter against a living room sofa with enough force to crack her skull.
A Spokane County jury convicted Pelletier of first-degree assault Friday.
Despite finding him guilty as charged, some jurors later expressed sympathy for the 20-year-old Spokane father, who claimed he didn’t know how to care for a newborn.
But Pelletier’s former fiancee, Tina Williams, stood outside the courtroom, folded her arms across her chest and demanded stiff punishment.
Her daughter, Courtney, is braindamaged.
“There’s no excuse for what he did,” she said. “Nobody gets a book when they have a baby.”
Police said Pelletier admitted shaking and swearing at the baby when he couldn’t get her to stop crying the night of Dec. 7.
Filled with anger and frustration, he raised the six-pound baby over his head and threw her at the sofa.
“I had to take a break,” he told the jury Thursday.
If he was aiming for the cushions and pillows, he missed. The infant’s tiny body struck the sofa’s oak armrest, knocking her unconscious.
Minutes later, Williams returned to the West Sharp apartment from a babysitting job. Pelletier was in the bathroom, trying to revive the baby by splashing cold water on her face.
Williams took one look at her limp, blue-faced daughter and screamed. Then she ran to the phone to call 911.
The baby was rushed by ambulance to Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Courtney stayed in the pediatric intensive-care unit for three weeks. Beating the odds, she survived a major skull fracture, internal bleeding and numerous bruises.
Today, the 9-month-old suffers from seizures, poor vision and developmental delays caused by the head injury.
During the trial, Pelletier’s lawyer, Kevin Curtis, argued that his client didn’t know better: He never took a parenting class, and didn’t know how to care for a baby.
Pelletier said he panicked that night because the baby had been crying for 15 to 20 minutes - the longest fussy period he had ever experienced.
That’s not true, Williams said Friday.
She said there were many times when the baby - born a month premature - cried for long periods in the middle of the night, keeping both parents awake.
The jury of eight women and four men didn’t know Courtney had been abused prior to the sofa incident.
Doctors discovered healing broken bones and old bruises, but police couldn’t pin the injuries on Pelletier. Deputy Prosecutor Dawn Cortez wasn’t allowed to introduce the evidence at trial.
Pelletier, a Spokane fast-food worker, has no prior felony convictions.
When he is sentenced in about a month, Cortez said she will seek at least a 10-year prison term - the high end of the standard sentencing range for the crime.
Curtis hoped to convince the jury to find his client guilty of a much lesser charge, third-degree assault, which carries a sentence of 30 to 90 days in jail.
“We thought he didn’t intend to harm the child,” the defense attorney said afterward.