As people mill about Marietta Square blocks away, a jury heard the closing arguments for and against charges that an Austell mother poisoned to death her disabled toddler and took out credit cards in his name.
The jury is examining the case of Erica White, who faces charges of malice murder and counts of financial fraud in the November 2014 death of her 2-year-old son Tyrael McFall.
The state says the boy died after being poisoned with Tylenol No. 3, which contains codeine. A GBI toxicologist testified that the amount in Tyrael’s system was toxic but not necessarily fatal.
Nine days ago during opening statements, prosecutors described the 45-year-old woman who killed her blind and severely brain-damaged son, left that way from a beating by his father, for financial gain.
In opening, her defense team typified White as fighting for her disabled boy who was then shattered by her son’s death.
Defense attorney Bryan Lumpkin during his closing argument Thursday said there was “a very small amount of evidence of murder” and “a very large amount of evidence of financial” wrongdoing.
Lumpkin said Michael Schullerman, her boyfriend at the time of Tyrael’s death, had much to do with the boy dying.
About two months ago, Schullerman pleaded guilty to about a dozen charges — but not the murder counts.
Schullerman was sentenced to 20 years in prison on a racketeering charge, which White also faces, for financial fraud — an alleged scheme that involved not telling Social Security that the boy had died in order to continue getting benefits.
The boy was handicapped at eight weeks old when his father, Joseph McFall, shook him, threw him, cracked both his arms and a rib.
White wrote that the beating was part of her reasoning for leaving McFall after less than a year of marriage. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in April 2014.
“She has to live with the fact that she let these men into her life,” Lumpkin said.
She also had to live with listening to the state’s case against her.
“Erica White is a liar, Erica White is a thief,” said prosecutor Susan Treadaway in closing arugments while sauntering over to White. Then she faced White and sternly said at her, “Erica White is a murderer.”
Treadaway showed the jury financial statements indicating that she used Tyrael’s identity to take out credit cards in his name. She showed a credit card with a snowy tiger on it — and Tyrael’s name.
The state said White “despertely” was trying to collect the $50,000 life insurance policy on Tyrael.
“She exploited that boy in life and in death,” Treadaway said, as White shook her head side to side.
White agreed the day before that she would not testify on her own behalf.
After Treadaway finshed her closing argument Thursday, the jury was sent to lunch by Judge Mary Staley Clark, the same judge who presided over the case of Justin Ross Harris — the Cobb man convicted in 2016 of purposely leaving his young son to die in a hot car.
Lumpkin also represented Harris, whom the judge sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.