After almost five hours of deliberations Friday night, a jury ruled the state of Louisiana is more responsible for the death of Mya George than the man who admitted he killed her. Mya George’s step-grandfather, Jesse White, beat the 3-year-old to death in September of 2003. Onlookers in the courtroom gasped as the verdict was read. Many members of the jury had red faces and swollen eyes, signs that they had been crying. But Mya’s father, who filed the civil suit, says he’s just glad his daughter got justice.
There’s no question that it’s a sad story how the little 3-year-old died… badly bruised and beaten until brain dead by Jesse White. He was caring for the girl for Melissa Turnage. Officials with the Office of Community Services told her not to leave Mya in White’s care. However, it appears claims by Mya’s father, Travis Stewart, is what convinced a West Baton Rouge jury to hold the state responsible for Mya’s death. Stewart claimed that OCS failed to see a trend of abuse, and thus failed in doing their job to protect Mya. The jury of this abuse case ruled that the state and the case worker investigating Mya’s abuse, Ruby Jenkins, were 75 percent responsible for her death. They ruled Melissa Turnage was 20 percent responsible, and the man who’s spending the rest of his life in prison for killing Mya, Jesse White, was only five percent responsible.
The jury then had to decide how much money to award. On behalf of Mya George, the jury awarded her eight million dollars. To the man who filed the suit, Travis Stewart, the jury awarded nothing. Stewart’s attorney, Cleo Fields, says, “This verdict certainly sends a very clear and convincing message to the Department of Social Services, OCS in particular, that you have to protect children. That’s your job.”