Jury convicts foster mom of murder, torture, abuse


Shemeeka Davis, 40, was found guilty of first-degree murder and two counts each of torture and child abuse. The trial, however, is not over because Davis pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The second phase of the trial will begin next week, during which the same jury will be asked to decide whether Davis was legally insane during the years she abused and tortured her niece and nephew, who she took in as foster children shortly after they were born.

Her niece, 15-year-old Jazzmin Davis, was found dead on the floor in Davis' house on Sept. 2, 2008 with scars and injuries covering her entire body, prosecutor Satish Jallepalli said during the trial.

Jazzmin's twin brother also had extensive injuries on his body, but lived.

Jallepalli said that Davis had beaten the children with belts, electrical cords and a wooden closet rod and burned them with boiling water and an iron. She reportedly locked them in their closet for long periods of time and withheld food from them.

When Jazzmin died, she was so malnourished that she only weighed 78 pounds and was 5 feet 7 inches tall. Her brother was also severely malnourished and looked about two years younger than he was.

Davis also withheld medical treatment from the children and prevented Jazzmin from going to school.

Her attorney Betty Barker argued during trial that Davis suffered from several severe mental illnesses, including psychotic delusions that caused her to falsely believe that Jazzmin and her brother were evil and were trying to poison her and her biological daughter, who was 7 years old when Jazzmin died.

Barker argued that Davis, in her delusional state, believed she was punishing the children to make them behave and was unable to see the damage she was doing.

Jallepalli agreed that Davis was mentally ill, but said she took actions to conceal the abuse, which showed that she knew what she was doing was wrong.

The sanity phase of the trial will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.

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