USAfrica: As Jessica Tata’s case escalates to murder charges, her high-profile lawyer DeGuerin returns to familiar but slippery terrain.
Special report by CHIDO NWANGWU
USAfrica, Houston March 31, 2011: There has been an escalation of the charges to the level of “murder” against Houston daycare owner Jessica Rene Tata, the 22-years-old Nigerian-American woman. She will face 4 counts of murder concerning her role in the deaths of 4 babies under her home-based daycare known as Jackie’s Child Care at 2810 Crest Park near Eldridge in west Houston.
The prosecutors allege that Ms. Tata left the kids unattended, left to shop, with a fire and a “heated stove” on, at the daycare. Consequently, the prosecutors insist, among other entries that Tata “did then and there unlawfully, commit and attempt to commit the felony of abandoning a child with the intent to return … under circumstances that exposed [each child] to an unreasonable risk of harm.” They add that she failed the requirements of the laws of Texas daycare responsibilities when she “did not voluntarily deliver [each child] to a designated emergency infant care provider.”
Furthermore, the prosecutors insist that Ms. Tata “did commit an act clearly dangerous to human life, namely by leaving [each child] without adult supervision in a house with a pan containing oil on top of a heated burner that started a fire that caused the death of [each child].”
USAfrica is reporting that, in part, the initial strong message to the prosecutors and the families of the babies from Ms. Tata and her family by hiring a very tough, high-profile and technicalities versatile attorney in Houston Mr. Dick DeGuerin would have a bearing on the latest upgrading of her alleged crimes to murder.
DeGuerin was admitted to the Texas State Bar in 1965, and served as lawyer for religious cult Texas leader in Waco, David Koresh in the wake of Koresh’s fiery showdown with the FBI and the agency known as ATF. DeGuerin served as attorney for David Mark Temple, who was charge with killing his wife (the woman was 8 months pregnant). Another prominent case regarded the real estate multimillionaire Robert Durst, accused of dismembering the body of his 71-year-old neighbor and throwing the pieces in Galveston Bay, near Houston, Texas.
The Tatas’ hiring of DeGuerin is, evidently, a legal line of readiness to deal, without any sentiments, with the fundamentals and technicalities of the case– which previously had four counts of manslaughter, six counts of reckless injury to a child and three counts of abandoning a child under 15 arising from the February 24, 2011 fire at her daycare. There was no murder charges, then.
Meanwhile, many of USAfrica readers and respondents we informed/updated about the enhanced charges and case for “murder” against Tata by Harris county prosecutors generally expressed the similar word of: “surprise.”
Boston-based contributing editor of USAfrica and CLASSmagazine and an attorney, Ogor Winnie Okoye, told USAfricaonline.com that “I’m surprised at the charge. I think it’s a bit much. I do not think there’s a premeditation on Ms. Tata’s part. None that I know.”
Angela Ogbonda, a Nigerian from the River State (the home state of Jessica Tata’s parents) responded that: “While I condemn her for what she has reportedly done or failed to do at her daycare that led to the death of those babies but I don’t think she intended to commit murder.”
Ejike Okafor, a student in Houston, said “I’m simply surprised that she messed up a difficult situation but I am more surprised by the murder charges.”
Ms. Titilayo Ademola told USAfrica that “if Jessica Tata did the crime by abandoning little babies who were less than 1 year old or 2 years old, then she needs to face the consequences, too. They know why they charged her for murder.” Stella Akuma said that “although I think Jessica Tata has hurt many people and disgraced all of us who are young Nigerian-Americans born here, I don’t believe he wanted to murder the little children. I don’t think so.”
Remarkably, previously and only 10 days ago, several of the readers on USAfrica’s Facebook page facebook.com/usafricachido , twitter.com/chido247, several of USAfrica blogs –especially Nigeria360 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nigeria360 and AfricanChristians http://groups.yahoo.com/group/africanchristians were angered by the fact that Jessica Tata, a U.S citizen, traveled outside Houston to Nigeria when the parents and families of the babies who died on her watch were going through burial ceremonies and sorrowful. This was complicated by the fact, appearance of and her designation as a fugitive by the law enforcement authorities, especially the U.S Marshals’ office.
She left Houston and traveled to Nigeria from Houston on February 26, 2011, two days after Houston/Harris County safety/fire and law enforcement officials made preliminary conclusions that the February 24 fire at her Jackie’s Child Care caused the deaths of four babies, and severe injuries to others.
A report sent to USAfricaonline.com by the U.S Marshal’s office stated that since Friday (March 18) two Interpol – Lagos agents were in Port Harcourt working leads and information provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, Interpol Washington, and Department of State Diplomatic Security. Based on these leads, the IP – Lagos agents were able to locate Tata and take her into custody. Her family previously said she cooperated and volunteered to surrender.
Jessica was returned, in the company of Marshals and international security staff, a few minutes after 5:00 a.m on Monday March 21, 2011, enroute a flight from Nigeria’s Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Tata landed the United States as a captured person of the U.S Marshal.
As the case enters this critical trial phase, even as the families of the babies are still hurting, the necessary litigation and counterpoints of the law will bring both more heartaches and modest relief to some. But you may never specifically predict the outcome of most of the law and a jury -amidst the many technicalities of jurisprudence. •Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica and recipient of several journalism and public policy awards, was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news projects for Africans and Americans. USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com (characterized by The New York Times as the most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks) established May 1992, our first edition of USAfrica magazine was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994; CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; www.PhotoWorks.TV in 2005. wireless: 832-45-CHIDO (24436). Office: 713-270-5500. e-mail: USAfrica247@USAfricaonline.com
For further, inside reporting on this breaking news, log on to USAfricaonline.com.
Video of CBSNews Houston affiliate KHOU Channel 11 reporter Alex Sanz interviews USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu on the Jessica Tata issue. http://www.khou.com/home/Nigerian-community-in-Houston-react-to-Jessica-Tatas-return-118400849.html
Video of NBCNews Channel 2, KPRC Houston, interview wt USAfrica Publisher Chido Nwangwu on the Jessica Tata daycare fire issues n latest developments.
Jessica Tata’s family is from Nigeria. Members of the Nigerian community in Houston believe Tata’s actions are giving them a bad name. Nefertiti Jaquez reports. http://www.click2houston.com/video/27058178/index.html
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