Prosecutors played hours of video footage Wednesday, believing it proves a Chattanooga man on trial for murder lied about a 3-year-old falling down stairs.
But a defense attorney says law enforcement used that video to lie to his client, and that forensic evidence supported portions of Rhasean Lowry's story about what happened Aug. 26, 2014.
Lowry, 37, faces charges of first-degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse in the death of 3-year-old Tatiana Emerson. He has stood trial in Hamilton County Criminal Court since Tuesday and faces a possible life sentence.
Prosecutors say Lowry beat Emerson that morning and made up a story about her falling down the stairs at the Econo Lodge around 10 a.m. Lowry was living there with Melanie Emerson, the child's mother, and three kids in total, prosecutors said.
In opening statements, prosecutors said medical evidence and video footage would disprove Lowry's story, and they spent most of Wednesday showing the differences between his statement to police and the surveillance footage.
Lowry told police he went into the lobby to get milk and coffee before the fall, court records show. Then, as he fished a bottle out of the car, Lowry said, he watched Tatiana climb the stairs and trip near the top.
Prosecutors said that was a lie.
Hotel cameras showed Lowry carrying Tatiana to his car at 9:49 a.m., then entering the lobby for the first time all morning around 9:55.
"According to Mr. Lowry, when does the fall occur in relation to when he got the milk?" prosecutor Cameron Williams asked.
"Between 9:45 a.m. and 10 a.m.," Chattanooga detective Matthew Puglise said.
"According to him, he went to the lobby shortly before the fall?" Williams asked.
"That's correct," Puglise said.
"But [before the fall] he never enters?" Williams asked.
"No," Puglise said.
Attorney Dan Ripper said forensic evidence backs up some of Lowry's account to police. For instance, Lowry said he tried to doctor Tatiana's bloody lip with tissue after the fall, Ripper said. Afterward, officers found used tissue and bloody bedsheets with Tatiana's DNA on them, Ripper said, confirming his client's story.
Ripper also argued that officers lied to Lowry during an interview at Erlanger hospital, where doctors were treating Tatiana.
"You told my client the stairs were on the camera," Ripper said to detective Puglise. "That's absolutely not correct."
The cameras didn't show the stairs or the fall, Ripper said during opening statements, and Puglise admitted he lied. Ripper then said a second detective "trie[d] to convince my client that my client walked into Parkridge."
"You've seen the video," Ripper said. "You and my client both know that he didn't walk into Parkridge, and yet he's trying to get my client to agree."
Puglise said detectives sometimes lie to get suspects to tell the truth about a crime. And in this case, he said, the circumstances were dire: It took Parkridge doctors 21 minutes before they could get a pulse on an unconscious Tatiana.
The next day, she slipped into a coma at Erlanger, prosecutors said. She ultimately died Aug. 27, 2014, at 3 years, two weeks and one day old.
The trial continues today before Criminal Court Judge Don Poole at 9:30 a.m.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.