Published September 12, 2011
| Associated Press
ATLANTA -- Georgia's top court on Monday upheld the conviction and life sentence against an Atlanta vegan couple over the death of their malnourished 6-week-old boy, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.
The Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous ruling rejected appeals by Jade Sanders and Lamont Thomas, who were convicted and sentenced after a jury found them guilty of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children for the April 2004 death of Crown Shakur.
The two first-time parents, who lived in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood, rushed the infant to the hospital after he began to have trouble breathing and doctors declared him dead on arrival after failing to resuscitate him. They found his death was due to extreme malnourishment or starvation, and police then searched the couple's apartment.
They found a soy milk bottle, an apple juice bottle and a rancid-smelling baby bottle caked with debris. Prosecutors said an investigation revealed the two only fed their baby soy milk and apple juice, and contended at the 2007 trial that the couple intentionally neglected their child and refused to take him to the doctor even as the baby's body wasted away.
Defense attorneys countered that the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby was in danger until they rushed his emaciated body to the hospital.
"I loved my son -- and I did not starve him," Jade Sanders said at her May 2007 sentencing hearing.
In her appeal, Sanders' attorney argued the evidence wasn't strong enough to support the verdict. And Thomas' lawyer claimed his trial attorney was ineffective because he failed to call an expert to support his theory that his son's death was linked to cystic fibrosis and not starvation.
But the opinion, which was written by Presiding Justice George Carley, rejected both arguments. The evidence, the justices concluded, was sufficient to find both parents were "guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted."