Accused in Goddaughter's Apartment Death
EL PASO — To the public, Shawntrell Dawkins has been little more than a police station mugshot for almost five years. But today on the fourth floor of the county building downtown, she got her day in court, and took her seat for what is already a graphic murder trial.
Her goddaughter Milayna Harris died at the age of two. This is her picture as posted on a child advocacy website.
No one disputes where she died--at an apartment on Viscount where Milayna lived with her four year old brother. Both were in the care of Shawntrell Dawkins and her husband Nakia, while the children's military parents deployed overseas. But how she died is very much in dispute and will decide this case.
All of the witnesses today were El Paso police officers who arrived separately that night at the complex on Viscount. Hoping to portray a murder scene, prosector Penny Hamilton had had Sgt. Al Briones narrate a slideshow of more than 50 photographs he took inside the aparmtent that night. She had another officer show the jury photos he took of the dead baby. But the defense, including lawyer Stuart Leeds, will contend that Milayna either fell down the apartment staircase accidentally, or that the husband Nakia Dawkins caused her death. A separate jury has already convicted him of injury to a child. Lawyers also argued over police photographs of both adults' hands, the defense trying to indicate that there are marks on the palms of Nakia Dawkins but no blemishes on the hands of this defendant shawntrell dawkins. The jury will need to decide...accident or murder..and hope its decision serves justice to Milayna Harris.