CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Tears flowed in an Horry County courtroom Wednesday night after a man accused in the death of his 5-week-old daughter was found not guilty by a jury. The jury took about four and a half hours to reach the verdict, which was delivered just minutes before 10 p.m.
Defendant Miles Ferguson began sobbing when the court clerk read the verdict. Through his tears he mouthed "thank you" to the jury several times.
Ferguson, accompanied by dozens of friends and family, underwent a gruesome eight day trial that included multiple testimonies by medical examiners and doctors on behalf of both the defendant and prosecution.
Once the judge dismissed court following the verdict, the supporters in the courtroom applauded, cried and hugged each other. Ferguson hugged his family, friends and his defense attorney Morgan Martin.
"As I told the jury to begin with, [this case] was different than any other I'd ever had because I've never had such a fine young man [as a client]," Martin said. "And the family, his wife, the whole family, from the beginning to the end, they've lived a nightmare, and I just believed wholeheartedly in the fact that he was innocent, and I'm just so happy the jury reached the same conclusion.
Ferguson, a 27-year-old resident of Portsmouth, OH, and his family were on vacation in the Myrtle Beach area on July 29, 2007 when his daughter stopped breathing. Mylee was rushed to Grand Strand Regional Hospital and died on Aug. 2 at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Hospital workers said they noticed injuries on the infant's body that indicated Mylee had been shaken just before her death. Police believed Mylee was a victim of shaken baby syndrome and charged Ferguson with homicide by child abuse.
Ferguson said Mylee started to have breathing problems while he was preparing to change her diaper on July 29, 2007. Ferguson told the jury Tuesday he believed Mylee was choking, so he patted her on the back, held her up and lightly shook her, and then tried blowing air into her mouth.
Two days after Mylee was taken to the hospital, Ferguson confessed to police he had lightly shaken his daughter, raising questions and concern among the prosecution and law enforcement personnel involved in the case. The prosecution claimed Ferguson knew he'd done something harmful to his child.
However, Ferguson said the shaking was so mild and brief that he didn't even think about it until hospital workers at MUSC mentioned violent shaking as a possible cause for Mylee's injuries. Previously during the trial, medical experts for the defense said Mylee's death was likely caused by an internal head injury at birth, which started bleeding again five weeks later because of an infection in Mylee's brain.
Doctors who examined Mylee at MUSC have testified on behalf of the prosecution, saying they believe Mylee's injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome. Assistant Solicitor Candice Lively urged the jury to set aside emotions in the case and look at the medical evidence. During her closing argument earlier Wednesday, she assembled a chart of puzzle pieces that represented Mylee's injuries. She said doctors who examined Mylee testified that shaking was the most likely cause of those injuries.
However, Martin asked the jury to remember the opinions of medical experts who testified for the defense. He also reminded jurors of Ferguson's account of what happened - that Ferguson did not cause his baby to stop breathing by shaking her, but instead he reacted after the baby stopped breathing.