MICHIGAN CITY — After months of postponing in-person court appearances because of the pandemic, jury trials are set to resume on Monday in La Porte Superior Court 1.
Up first will be Brandon Bottom, a 26-year-old man accused of killing his infant son in 2019, and then attempting to solicit a gang member to kill two of the witnesses against him.
Bottom appeared via Zoom video conference from the La Porte County Jail last week for his final pre-jury conference.
With jury selection set to begin in person at 8 a.m. on Aug. 3, attorneys for both the state and defense worked with the judge to iron out the details.
During Bottom’s hearing on July 23, Judge Michael Bergerson ruled that expert witnesses will be allowed to testify via Zoom if necessary.
The following day, the state and defense filed a joint motion that the trial not be livestreamed so as to maintain a separation of the witnesses, to keep people from being able to testify after having watched part of the trial.
Bergerson granted the motion, meaning the court must be open to the public throughout the trial.
However, only six spectators will be allowed inside the courtroom at a time, as that’s all that can be accommodated given the social distancing guidelines, which will have jurors seated 6 feet apart throughout the jury box and gallery.
Jury selection will occur in three phases of 25 people at a time on Monday; and the trial will begin Tuesday.
Bottom is charged with Level 1 felony counts of aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent resulting in death, and a Level 2 felony count of battery resulting in death to a child younger than 14 stemming from the Feb. 5, 2019, death of his 8-week-old son.
He also faces a Level 2 felony count of conspiracy to commit murder for allegedly attempting to have a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang murder the baby’s mother and her brother, both of whom are expected to testify against Bottom.
Bottom’s infant son was rushed to the emergency room at Franciscan Health Michigan City on Feb. 1, 2019, presenting as “very pale with shallow breathing and unable to open his eyes,” according to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department.
Upon inspection, hospital staff determined the baby had sustained a brain bleed; swelling of the brain; a dilated, unresponsive left pupil; and bruising along the right side of his body – injuries “consistent with the shaking of a baby,” the probable cause affidavit states.
The baby was airlifted to the University of Chicago Medicine – Comer Children’s Hospital, where he died four days later.
During autopsy, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office discovered the baby had a recently broken rib, as well as multiple other rib fractures in various stages of healing.
His cause of death was listed as “closed head injuries due to blunt force trauma;” manner of death as “homicide.”
According to the probable cause affidavit, Bottom’s 6-year-old daughter and Bottom’s girlfriend’s 10-year-old brother provided forensic interviews indicating both had witnessed Bottom behave abusively toward the baby.
Each of the Level 2 felonies Bottom faces carries a potential sentence of 20-40 years in the Indiana Department of Correction; and the Level 2 felonies are punishable by 10-30 years apiece.
As he awaits the resolution of his case, Bottom remains in lockup at the La Porte County Jail on a cash-only bond of $100,000.