Jennifer Rosenbaum, charged with child abuse and murder in connection with 2-year-old Laila Marie Daniel’s death, seemed close to tears before her bond hearing at Henry County Superior Court in McDonough on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Hyosub Shin
Photo: Hyosub Shin

Woman charged with killing foster child released on bond

A Henry County woman charged with beating, starving and killing a 2-year-old foster child in her care was granted bond Tuesday, eliciting groans from the little girl’s friends and family in the courtroom.

Jennifer Rosenbaum was granted a $100,000 bond by Henry County Judge Arch McGarity, who also ordered her to wear an ankle-monitoring device. She is charged in the Nov. 17 death of Laila Marie Daniel.

Laila’s family and friends became visibly upset when Rosenbaum was granted bond. Several gasped and started crying, then rose up to walk out in protest.

Some suspected that Rosenbaum, an Emory University law student who had served as an intern in the local court and district attorney’s office, was receiving special treatment. A few said the case should be shifted to another court.

“It should be moved to another county,” said family friend Rebecca Bause, 35.

Rosenbaum’s attorney, Corinne Mull, said her client never abused Laila, that the child’s death was the result of an accident, and that Rosenbaum isn’t receiving preferential treatment.

Henry County District Attorney James Wright had opposed setting bail for Rosenbaum.

The majority of murder defendants are not granted bond, said Russell Covey, a law professor at Georgia State University.

“I think it’s relatively rare, but it’s far from unheard of,” Covey said.

Bobby Cagle, the head of the state child welfare agency, commented on the case Tuesday to Channel 2 Action News, saying, “I think there may have been opportunities there that we missed.”

“In situations where a (caseworker), for instance, sees an injury to a child, they need to be reporting that just as any reporter should,” said Cagle, director of the Division of Family and Children Services. “That’s one of the things we are looking at in this case to determine (whether) we could have done things differently.”

DFCS has a long history of trouble managing children in foster care, and Laila’s death comes at the end of a year of initiatives meant to repair the agency.

Distraught, dismayed

Before the Rosenbaum hearing, several of Laila’s friends and family gathered in front of the courthouse and held up signs saying “No Bond for Child Murder” and “Justice 4 Laila.”

The girl’s great-aunt, Kim Smith, led the group in a prayer, saying, “Lord, we know that justice will be done. … It’s not about the things (Rosenbaum) did for the community. It’s what was done to Laila.”

Meanwhile, Rosenbaum’s friends and family anxiously waited outside Courtroom A. Her attorney said she hoped the judge would grant a bond because Rosenbaum was not a risk to flee the area or to influence any witnesses.

“She’s distraught, very dismayed, and sad over the death of this child,” Mull said.

No criminal history

Laila died Nov. 17, about five months after she was placed in the care of Rosenbaum and her husband, Joseph. The arrest warrant for Jennifer Rosenbaum said she killed the child by striking her in the abdomen “with such force the child’s pancreas was transected. The child was believed to enter shock due to the blood loss resulting from the injury.”

The warrant noted that Laila was “injured about her body in its entirety,” suffering severe bruising on her back, legs, head and abdomen, and breaks of her legs and arms. The Rosenbaums also abused Laila’s sister, authorities said.

During the bond hearing, Rosenbaum sat beside her attorney in a gray pants suit, looking sad. The attorney called a handful of supporters to the stand to praise Rosenbaum’s community involvement and clean criminal history. Rosenbaum had also served as an intern in the state Legislature.

‘A voice for children’

Rosenbaum’s sister, Lauren Banks, said Rosenbaum has been an advocate for children ever since her days as a foster child. She said Rosenbaum had been removed from her mother’s care at an early age and bounced from foster home to foster home.

“She wants to be a voice for children in foster homes,” Banks said. “She did everything she could to assist others.”

Robert Hinton said he knows Rosenbaum from the local Republican Party. Prior to her arrest, Rosenbaum had announced her candidacy for a seat on the Henry County Commission. Asked whether he thought Rosenbaum might try to flee if she received bond, Hinton replied, “I have no doubt whatsoever that she’d follow the law.”

Rosenbaum’s husband, Joseph, charged with child cruelty, had been previously granted a $10,000 bond.

Mull, Rosenbaum’s attorney, said Laila died after Jennifer Rosenbaum performed the Heimlich maneuver and CPR to help the child when the girl was choking on some chicken. She said the force of the compressions may have caused the injury to the pancreas. Mull attributed the children’s other injuries to either abuse prior to their stay with the Rosenbaums or the general bumps and bruises of childhood play.

Bond: yes or no?

In weighing whether to grant bond, judges must consider the severity of the crime as well as whether the defendant might try to flee or intimidate any witnesses, said Covey, the Georgia State law professor.

A judge’s decision might also be influenced by the amount of public outcry over the crime, said Mike Puglise, a Gwinnett County defense attorney.

He pointed to the intense public uproar over the case of Justin Ross Harris, the Cobb County father accused of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son in a hot car to die. Harris has been in jail with no bond since June of last year.

In granting the bond for Rosenbaum, Judge McGarity noted that just because this is a murder case, it does not mean a person should not receive bond.

“It just doesn’t work like that,” the judge said.

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