BOISE -- Closing arguments have wrapped up in the Daniel Ehrlick murder trial and the jury is now deliberating the case.
Ehrlick is charged with first degree murder in the death of 8-year-old Robert Manwill.
He is accused of abusing the boy, which prosecutors say lead to his death.
Robert was missing for more than one week before his body was found in an irrigation canal near Kuna on August 3, 2009.
Court began at 1 p.m. today. First, jurors received instructions from the judge.
This is the list ofcharges the juryis asked to consider when deliberating on whether Daniel Ehrlick is guilty or not:
- 1st degree murder in perpetuating a felony
- 1st degree murder by torture
- 2nd degree murder
- 2nd degree murder by torture
- Aggravated battery
- Injury to child
- Failure to report a death (separate charge, not in that prior range of violent crimes)
The prosecution began the closing arguments.
Ada CountyDeputy Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Dinger told the jury there are several reasons they should find Ehrlick guilty of killing Robert Manwill.
Dinger talked about why Daniel Ehrlick would have killed Robert. He said that Department of Health and Welfare workers were at the home three times a week to check on Aidan, Melissa Jenkins' youngest son. Ehrlick admitted on the stand that they hid Robert in a closet during Health and Welfare visits.
The prosecution said Ehrlick admitted they hid Robert because if Health and Welfare workers saw his bruises, they would take Aidan out of the home. While on the stand during the trial, Ehrlick said they hid the boy because he was not supposed to be there.
Dinger claims Ehrlick was feeling the pressure from Health and Welfare, and knew that if anyone saw Robert and his bruises, that the state would remove Aidan out of the home permanently.
The prosecution also brought up the different forms of punishment they say Robert was forced to endure that summer. Those forms of punishment consist of what they refer to as dead bugging, forcing the child to lay on his back with his hands and feet in the air. Dinger played audio clips from interviews conducted with Ehrlick in which he admitted Robert had bruises from the dead bugging punishment.
Other forms of discipline include wall punishment, the chair, and forcing Robert to eat oatmeal and raisins, a meal the boy hated because it made him sick.
Dinger said these types of punishment happened all summer long, and the dead bugging punishment, which at point point Ehrlick admitted he placed his knees on Robert's stomach, caused a fatal injury to his abdomen.
The prosecution also referred to a head injury they say was caused by Ehrlick slamming the boy's head into a hard surface.
They also explained to the jury that Ehrlick's story was never consistent. Throughout the search, interviews with detectives, and his testimony on the stand during this trial, Ehrlick's story changed.
Daniel Dinger said that while Ehrlick never outwardly admits to killing Robert, that he has admitted his guilt in other ways.
With his words and actions, he told us he is guilty of this crime. He had the motive and opportunity to batter and torture this boy.
Ada County Public Defender Gus Cahill began his closing argument by telling the jury that the prosecution has a lack of proof in the case. He said when applying the facts, the prosecution did not have sufficient enough evidence to prove to the jury that beyond a reasonable doubt, Ehrlick is the one who killed Robert Manwill.
While talking about how Ehrlick acted once Robert went missing and during the search, Cahill said that everybody acts differently in a crisis.
Cahill referred back to how many witnesses claimed Ehrlick was very sweaty during the search and questioning. He told the jury, He's not guilty because he was sweaty, or because he was hysterical. Again, the way it is presented to you, it is designed to make you think that way.
He reminded the jury that Ehrlick voluntarily submitted to hours of interviews with police and detectives, interrogations, and that he let people into his house.
Cahill also addressed the prosecution's claims that Ehrlick lied about some things, for example, hiding Robert in a closet. He said while Ehrlick did lie, those lies have more to do with the family being under the microscope of Health and Welfare, not covering up a murder.
While talking about the prosecution's claims that Robert was rarely seen that summer, Cahill argued that people did see him, and many witnesses testified to the jury about that. He went through the different witnesses who said they did see Robert on July 24, when the prosecution said Robert did not leave the apartment. Some witnesses said they saw him at the pool, and Ehrlick's father said he saw the boy playing at the playground. Cahill said the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Robert was not seen at the pool that afternoon.
When it comes to whether or not there was a birthday party, Cahill said that Ehrlick himself never said there was a birthday, but reminded the jury that Robert had asked to go to a birthday party.
Cahill also mentioned that many witnesses testified that there was talk that day about a birthday party, or a possibly canceled birthday.
Cahill reminds the jury that both sides of the case, the defense and prosecution, were willing to allow the judge, the evidence show that Melissa (Jenkins) was the primary disciplinarian here. And more importantly, nobody ever saw Danny being physically violent with any child. That is significant.
He reminded the jury that Melissa was the person who fractured her youngest son's skull, and Melissa was seen in public settings, tossing Raelynn (her daughter) around like a rag doll in front of family members.
Next, Cahill went through what would have had to happen for Ehrlick to have killed Robert and disposed of his body. The defense said that Ehrlick did not have a vehicle after 3 p.m. that day. Cahill said if Daniel Ehrlick had murdered Robert, he would have had to deal with the boy dying inside the apartment. He then would have had to go down the street, in the daylight, with the body, to the canal without being seen. Cahill said during all of this, Ehrlick would have also had to have been text messaging Melissa Jenkins.
While talking about the list of injuries the prosecution said Robert endured, Cahill said there is no proof these injuries happened three to four days before the boy's death. He said they could have happened months before.
The defense also argued that it is up to the jury to decide whether the disciplinary actions used by Ehrlick should be defined as torture. It is also up to the jury to decide whether these punishments caused Robert's death. During this statement, Cahill brought up the concerns that Robert was forced to eat something he didn't like, and sit in a closet during Health and Welfare visits.
Cahill said, Did these actions cause death? Oatmeal didn't cause the death of this young man. I'm sorry, I'm sorry he's dead. But a hot car didn't cause it. Oatmeal didn't cause it. The closet didn't cause it. But what did cause it, was some kind of injury to the stomach area, abdomen, and something to the head. And is there proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Daniel did that? No.
The defense wrapped up by urging the jury to take their time while going through the evidence and thinking about this case. He said, I certainly ask you to not make the decision in haste.
Cahill encouraged the jury to evaluate the evidence, and listen to the CDs, to decide what is significant in this case.
Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jill Longhurst addressed the jury during the prosecution's rebuttal.
Robert Manwill was never going to go home that summer, said Longhurst. Robert's fate became sealed because Daniel Ehrlick couldn't let him go home.
Longhurst reminded the jury of Ehrlick's motive. That if anyone found out about what was happening to Robert in their home, Jenkins' youngest son would be taken away.
The prosecution said when Ehrlick was arrested for the murder of Robert Manwill, he told officers to prove it.
The prosecution ended their rebuttal by saying to the jury, We are asking you on behalf of the state to deliberate and find the defendant guilty.
Longhurst went on to say that today is the day they will prove it.
What will happen next:
The judge has given the jury the go-ahead to deliberate on the case until 10 p.m. Thursday.
If a verdict is not reached by Friday, the jury will return to court on Tuesday, July 5th.
You can recap the closing arguments by visiting the KTVB.COMLive Blog that was kept during the trial Thursday, click here.