HOUSTON — Deliberations continued Tuesday in the murder trial of Jessica Tata. Jurors left Monday evening without reaching a verdict after six hours and were sequestered at a Houston hotel overnight.
Tata was charged with murder after four children—Elias Castillo, Elizabeth Kojah, Kendyll Stradford and Shomari Dickerson -- died in a fire at her west Houston home day care in February 2011.
This trial is for the death of 15-month-old Elias, the youngest victim.
His mother left the courthouse in tears after the emotionally-charged closing arguments.
The prosecution maintains Tata left the children unsupervised with oil heating on the stove while she went shopping at Target.
"I would suggest to you that you would expect more from someone who’s watching your dog," prosecutor Steve Baldassano told jurors.
Baldassno said Tata tried to evade responsibility for the fire that also injured three children.
"Today is the day to hold her accountable," he said. "Find her guilty for the death of Elias Castillo, who will forever be frozen in time at the age of 15 months."
"It is what it is, and it’s not what it’s not," said Defense Attorney Mike DeGeurin. "The prosecution can’t point to you and say, ‘You’re guilty,’ and that makes you guilty."
The defense tried to raise the possibility that the fire was caused by faulty wiring in a refrigerator, something the prosecution called a last ditch effort.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it was a tragic accident. Jessica Tata should have never left those children alone. It was wrong to do that," DeGeurin said.
Tata did not take the stand in her own defense.
Early in the investigation, a neighbor said Tata told firefighters that the fire started in the kitchen, while she was in the bathroom. It was later determined she wasn’t home at the time.
A jury of seven women and five men sat through three weeks of testimony as a courtroom packed with the young victims’ family members relived that horrific day.
In all, Tata is charged with four counts of felony murder. She faces up to life in prison if convicted.