Tessa Daniel, mother of Laila Daniel, becomes emotional while sitting in the courtroom during closing arguments for the trial of Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum in front of Henry County Judge Brian Amero at Henry County Superior Court in McDonough on Friday, July 26, 2019. Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum are being accused of abusing Laila, which allegedly resulted in her death, while she was in their foster care. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

Heated closing arguments for foster parents accused of killing Laila

There were raised voices, tears and shaking heads during closing arguments Friday afternoon for former foster parents accused of killing 2-year-old Laila Daniel. 

But jurors won’t begin deliberations until Monday morning to determine whether Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum are guilty. 

Prosecutors contend the couple physically abused two young sisters, killing one, in their care for four months in 2015. But their defense attorney argued the Rosenbaums were loving foster parents. Laila’s fatal injuries were the result of failed lifesaving measures, according to the Rosenbaums, who didn’t take the witness stand.

Closing statements lasted about four hours Friday afternoon in the Henry County murder trial that began July 8. The defense rested its case earlier Friday, and prosecutors were the first to make their closing arguments. 

“She (Laila) died a painful and a slow death,” Edward Chase, a DeKalb County prosecutor, told the jurors. “And think about this, the last person she saw was the person who killed her.”

The DeKalb County district attorney’s office is prosecuting the case because the Henry County DA’s office recused itself. Jennifer Rosenbaum once worked as an intern for the Henry DA.

DeKalb County Assistant District Attorney Edward Chase gives his closing arguments during the trial of Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum in front of Henry County Judge Brian Amero at the Henry County Superior Court in McDonough on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

Laila’s biological mother, Tessa Daniel, wiped away tears before leaving the courtroom during closing arguments. Others in the courtroom shook their heads as in disbelief, including Jennifer Rosenbaum. 

According to investigators, Jennifer Rosenbaum called 911 on Nov. 17, 2015, to report that Laila was choking on a chicken nugget. The foster mother said she then attempted lifesaving measures, including CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. 

But paramedics immediately noticed the unresponsive toddler had extensive bruising. Medical staff at Piedmont Henry Hospital also saw the injuries and called police. When Laila died, her older sister, Millie, was also found with bruises.

Defense attorney Corinne Mull gives her closing arguments during the trial of Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum in front of Henry County Judge Brian Amero at Henry County Superior Court in McDonough on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

“She had bruising, but nowhere as extensive as Laila,” Julie Espinosa, a nurse who worked at Piedmont Henry Hospital at the time, testified last week. Millie, then 4, said Laila had been “asleep for a while” before paramedics and police arrived to the girls’ foster home in November 2015, Espinosa testified.


» RELATED: The short life and tragic death of Laila Marie Daniel


An autopsy, conducted by the GBI, determined Laila died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, which split her pancreas in two and lacerated her liver. She also had broken bones, bruises and lacerations. Dr. Lora Darrisaw testified there were no signs the child had choked. 

During prosecutors’ closing arguments Friday afternoon, jurors were again shown autopsy pictures of Laila. The graphic images of the child’s injured body brought tears to the eyes of some in the courtroom. 

An observer becomes emotional as the prosecution gives their closing arguments during the trial of Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum in front of Henry County Judge Brian Amero at the Henry County Superior Court in McDonough on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

The Rosenbaums’ attorney, Corinne Mull, argued the sisters were “rough and tumble” girls who often fell and injured themselves. The fatal injuries to Laila, Mull said, were the results of Jennifer Rosenbaum’s failed attempts to save her life. 

“She unfortunately caused damages to the internal organs,” Mull said during her closing arguments. 

Jennifer Rosenbaum, a former law student and candidate for Henry County commissioner, faces charges of malice and felony murder, child cruelty, aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Joseph Rosenbaum, who previously worked for the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, is charged with second-degree murder, accused of leaving Laila in his wife’s care when he allegedly knew she was abusing the child. The couple face a total of 49 counts. 

Jennifer Rosenbaum (left) and Joseph Rosenbaum wait for closing arguments during their trial in front of Henry County Judge Brian Amero at Henry County Superior Court in McDonough on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

“Someone has to pay and that’s what this is about. Someone has to pay,” Mull said. “But in real life, sometimes there are accidents.”

In her final statement, Mull asked the jurors to care for the Rosenbaums in the same way that she has during her four years as their attorney. 

“Don’t sell them down the river to the first merchant that comes along,” she said. 

DeKalb County Assistant District Attorney Daysha Young uses a belt to demonstrate an example of physical abuse while giving her closing arguments during the trial of Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum in front of Henry County Judge Brian Amero at the Henry County SuperiorCourt in McDonough on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

Prosecutor Daysha Young delivered the final statements to the jury. Young called Laila and Millie “political props” for Jennifer Rosenbaum. The Rosenbaums instead brutally beat both sisters. 

“We all still don’t know all that happened to that baby under their watch,” Young said. 

Millie told jurors both she and her sister would get spankings from Jennifer Rosenbaum for things like not getting dressed fast enough. Millie told the jury Jennifer would use her hand and sometimes a belt to discipline both her and her sister.

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