McDONOUGH — Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum were set to stand trial this week for murder in the 2015 death of Laila Marie Daniel, a 2-year-old foster child in their care. Instead, attorneys met with a Henry County judge Monday morning to move the case out of the jurisdiction of the Superior Court.
The move is only temporary as the state has filed a notice to appeal Judge Brian Amero’s decision to exclude certain evidence from trial to the Georgia Supreme Court. Until the high court makes its ruling, the case will stall in Henry County.
It could be weeks or months before the Henry County proceedings can go forward.
“It appears that there is nothing we can do until the case is returned from the Supreme Court,” Amero told the attorneys, giving one final piece of instruction regarding the last records from the Division of Family and Children Services to be turned over to the court. “We’ll see you soon.”
Special prosecutors with the DeKalb County and Cobb County district attorney’s offices were pushing hard toward the March 12 trial date before the stall. Amero ruled in favor of a defense motion on Feb. 27 to exclude evidence collected from Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum’s cell phones and personal computers after he determined the state held on to those devices too long.
According to court documents, the first search warrants for the two cell phones, electronic tablet and laptop were not issued until May of 2017, a total of 539 days after they were seized.
The state volleyed with a notice of intent to appeal the decision on March 1, then filed an amended appeal on March 8 that narrowed what documents in the court record were to be turned over to the Supreme Court. The high court will take a look at all the released records, to include transcripts of motions hearings, before making its final decision on the Henry County court’s ruling.
Amero cited a violation of the defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights as the primary reason why the evidence from the devices could not be included at trial.
“There was a significant interference with the Defendants’ possessory interests in their property over the course of the 539-day delay it took for the State to begin to examine it,” the judge wrote in the order. “This delay did not result from the complexities of the case nor any overriding circumstances, but from oversights that caused the State not to pursue their investigation into the contents of the devices with sufficient diligence.
“While the State’s interest in holding defendants’ property as evidence is very high, this court finds that there was an unreasonable delay between the seizure of their property and the issuance of search warrants and that this delay violated Defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights,” he continued.
It appears that after the Rosenbaums’ devices were seized during their Dec. 4, 2015, arrests, they sat overlooked in evidence lockup until the newly-assigned special prosecutors began inquiring after them in March 2017.
As of Monday morning, the case had not yet been docketed with the Georgia Supreme Court. Once it has, it is expected that both sides will be given the opportunity to file any briefs and a date for oral argument will be placed on the court’s calendar.
Jennifer Rosenbaum, 29, is accused of malice and felony murder in Daniel’s death, along with associated charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and cruelty to children in the first degree.
Her husband, 28, is accused of murder in the second degree and cruelty to children in the second degree. The grand jury charged that Joseph was criminally negligent in “leaving the child in the care of Jennifer Rosenbaum after knowing the child had been previously physically abused while in Jennifer Rosenbaum’s care.”
While Jennifer was in court Monday, Joseph Rosenbaum was not due to a medical emergency. Before leaving the courtroom, Cobb Senior Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring indicated he’d like to note Rosenbaum’s absence to the judge, though Amero said he could not take any action given that the court no longer had jurisdiction.
The McDonough husband and wife are on pre-trial release on separate $100,000 bonds.