MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. -- A Mecklenburg jury deliberated about six and a half hours Friday without deciding whether Andre Hampton should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole for beating his 23-month-old son to death in November 2008.
The jurors have now deliberated about 8 hours over two days. They’ll resume deliberations Monday.
Assistant District Attorney Bill Stetzer had urged jurors during his closing arguments to put Hampton on death row.
The prosecutor told jurors that Ellijah Burger had suffered a “slow agonizing death.”
He said Hampton, 27, must pay for what he did.
“If he’s old enough to have children to murder, he’s old enough to face the consequences for what he has done,” the prosecutor said. “What happened was not inappropriate discipline. This was child abuse. It was torture. It was murder.
“Today he cries out to you,” Stetzer said of Ellijah. “He cries out for justice.”
Hampton was convicted last week of first-degree murder and felony child abuse. Jurors will resume their deliberations Friday.
Defense lawyer Norman Butler asked jurors to spare Hampton’s life.
“Is his life not worth something,” Butler asked. “I’m pleading for you not to kill Andre Hampton.
“Today you have an opportunity to save a life... . What good is killing him?”
Ellijah was beaten inside a motel room at a complex then called AARCS Residence Suites on South Tryon Street, where his family had been living.
Hampton confessed during a videotaped interview to beating Ellijah with a toothbrush, a hairbrush and a belt. His son, he told the homicide detective, wouldn’t eat his soup.
Hampton testified during the murder trial and told jurors that he loved his son and didn’t intend to kill him. His son’s birth, he said, was “like a dream come true.”
Ellijah’s mother, Lashinna Burger, told jurors Wednesday that she has forgiven Hampton.
Defense attorneys have also presented evidence that Hampton suffered from chronic depression and an anxiety disorder and was under stress trying to provide for his family. They’ve called witnesses to testify about the beatings Hampton received while growing up from the men in his mother’s life.
But during his closing arguments Thursday, Stetzer told jurors that Hampton deserves no tears. “There’s only one victim in this case,” he said. “That’s Ellijah.”
Stetzer asked what Hampton had given Ellijah. “He gave Ellijah a place in the earth to be buried,” the prosecutor said.
“Ellijah did not have a lawyer. He didn’t have a judge and a jury. He just had an execution …,” Stetzer told the jurors. “If this case is not deserving of the harshest penalty, none is.
Put this man on Death Row. That’s what this crime warrants.”
Butler told jurors that there was no question that Hampton was guilty of first-degree murder.
But he asked: “If you were to kill Mr. Hampton, what good would that do? Is that going to bring cute little Ellijah back? Absolutely nothing... . It’s not going to change a thing.”
Butler told jurors their job was not to seek vengeance but to seek justice. He said if Hampton is sentenced to life in prison, he’ll never get out.
“He’s a baby killer,” the defense lawyer said. “He will be punished every day for the rest of his life if you give him life. He will be reminded every day of what he did. He will never, ever get out.”
Butler reminded the jurors that Ellijah’s mother had forgiven Hampton.
“Lashinna Burger lived a mother’s nightmare,” he said. “No mother wants to bury a child… . This case is all about forgiveness.”
The family, Butler suggested, his been through enough pain.
“Are you going to make them bury somebody again? They’ve already buried Ellijah... . Don’t put them through that misery.”