The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday tossed out some incriminating evidence against Henry County foster parents charged with murdering a 2-year-old child in their care.
The justices ruled that information found in electronic devices owned by Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum cannot be used against them because law enforcement waited far too long to obtain warrants to search the devices.
The Rosenbaums are charged in the Nov. 17, 2015, death of Laila Marie Daniel, who died of a blow to her abdomen that ruptured her pancreas while in the couple's care, authorities said.
When the Rosenbaums were arrested two weeks after Laila’s death, Henry County police seized their iPhones, MacBook and iPad and placed them in the property room. On May 26, 2017, law enforcement officers obtained search warrants to look through the devices and found incriminating evidence in them.
But Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero ruled that the 539-day wait to obtain the information violated the couple’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. On Monday, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Michael Boggs, the state Supreme Court agreed.
“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,” Boggs wrote.
Even though the prosecution’s interest in holding the Rosenbaums’ property was “very high,” the year-and-a-half delay was unreasonable, the justice said. It was not disclosed what was found by authorities when they searched the electronic devices.
“We’re very pleased and gratified for the ruling,” said Corinne Mull, the Rosenbaums’ attorney. “We’re anxious to move on and get this case resolved.”
Jennifer Rosenbaum, a candidate for the Henry County Commission at the time of her arrest, once worked as an intern in the Henry County District Attorney's Office. For this reason, the Henry DA's Office recused itself from the case, although it waited more than a year after the seizure of the electronic devices to do so. The case is now being overseen by prosecutors from Cobb and DeKalb counties.
On Monday, Cobb prosecutor Chuck Boring said he respects the ruling by the state Supreme Court. He also noted that the issue of such a delay before search warrants were obtained had never been addressed by the state’s highest court.
“It’s good to have that guidance going forward,” Boring said. A trial date for the Rosenbaums should be set in the coming weeks, he said.
Jennifer Rosenbaum faces malice and felony murder charges, as well as child cruelty, aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Joseph Rosenbaum, a former correctional officer in Spalding County, is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly leaving Laila in his wife's care when he knew she was abusing the child. Both have pleaded not guilty and are out on bond.
On the night of Laila's death, Jennifer Rosenbaum called 911 and reported a child was choking at the couple's home in McDonough. When police and emergency medical personnel arrived, she told them that Laila had been choking on a piece of chicken and she used the Heimlich maneuver on her. But the EMTs noticed bruising on Laila's body, and an autopsy revealed numerous internal injuries and broken bones she suffered over time.