McDONOUGH — A former roommate of Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum who drew a sharp correction from Judge Brian Amero, a reluctant T-ball mom and Joseph Rosenbaum’s mother were among those called to the stand for the defense Tuesday.
Between them, the Rosenbaums either singly or jointly face a total of 49 counts, including murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and cruelty to children, stemming from the Nov. 17, 2015 death of Laila Marie Daniel, 2, and injuries to Millie Place, allegedly sustained while the girls were in their care.
Tuesday's events followed a day of gruesome photos and testimony about Laila's injuries as described by Dr. Lora Derrisaw of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Derrisaw, the director of pediatric forensic pathology, described "extensive" bruising and abrasions from the child's head to toe, a split pancreas, torn mesentery and nearly-split liver, which also showed a previous injury, as well as widespread deep bruises of different ages that were only visible by dissecting the skin and folding it open. Derrisaw did this on Laila's scalp, arm and abdomen. She testified that she was able to date the injuries by microscopic iron particles that were present in older bruises and found the manner of death to be homicide.
Eric Morillo, who had been roommates with both Rosenbaums and had attended high school and Georgia State University with Jennifer, also built her campaign website, lent her his Delta Air Lines flight privileges and served in the National Guard with her.
His testimony centered on whether he and Jennifer had been trained in CPR or the Heimlich maneuver while in the National Guard.
The defense has argued that Jennifer Rosenbaum was not trained in either and that Laila’s fatal internal injuries could have been caused by incorrect lifesaving attempts.
Morillo said he had learned “combat-related duties in a combat environment.”
Under cross-examination by the state, Morillo pushed back when asked if he had had "rescue breathing training.”
“It was a step,” he replied. “However, it is not a performance action measure but it was in the training.”
Asked what that step was, Morillo answered, “It encompasses giving air to the victim, per se.” When he began talking over the attorneys, Judge Brian Amero interrupted: “Excuse me! OK. When I hear an objection, you have to be quiet. Another thing. There’s too much talking over.”
Morillo testified that he had been taught needle chest decompression and that he didn’t recall being taught chest compressions.
Amber Evans, a parent of a T-ball player Jennifer had coached, appeared under subpoena.
“You’re not happy to be here, are you?” said defense attorney Corinne Mull.
“No, ma’am,” Evans replied.
Evans testified that she had never seen Jennifer spank either Laila or Millie and that she had sent Jennifer a supportive Facebook message shortly after news broke of Laila’s death. She called the news coverage “one-sided” and said “we’d be praying for her.”
When the prosecution asked Tuesday why she was not happy to be in court, Evans said, “The more that’s come out — “, to which the defense objected, sparking a long bench conference.
Mary Jane Rosenbaum, Joseph’s mother, took the stand, testifying that she also had been in the National Guard and that Jennifer and her son got together while she was in Iraq. Because “there’s not a lot of females in the military,” she said, she and Jennifer were assigned to the same barracks during support operations, even though they were in different units. She also said she got no child CPR training in the military.
Asked what the first meeting with the girls was like, she broke down. She said Laila and Millie fit in “very well. I fell in love with them right away,” recounting trips to Hilton Head, S.C., and Six Flags. She denied ever seeing any bruising or injuries out of the ordinary on the girls: “If I would have saw anything on those kids, I would have turned Jennifer and Joseph in myself.”
“It was horrible” at the hospital the night Laila died. She said Jennifer was “distraught, tears running down her face,” hanging onto Joseph, “saying I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it.” While there, she said, Henry County Coroner Don Cleveland commented, “Oh, you’re that Jennifer Rosenbaum?”
She said Jennifer used time out or toy removal as punishment, not spanking. She also said she has custody of her two other grandchildren due to neglect and that DFCS had been to her house as part of that.
She said she wasn’t aware of Millie’s injuries, “but I guess I am now.” Shown photos of Millie’s bruised hip and Laila’s bruised back, she said, "I’m sure they were normal kid things, nothing anybody would pay any attention to.”
Mary Jane Rosenbaum later left the courtroom weeping when she saw post-mortem photos of Laila. She also spoke with both Jennifer and Joseph separately during breaks, at one point hugging her son.
Attorney Mull said the defense expects to rest sometime mid-Thursday.