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Judge says most serious bodily injury I’ve seen on the bench

Judge says most serious bodily injury I’ve seen on the bench
Judge says most serious bodily injury I've seen on the bench | Child abuse case, 27th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge William Acree, Tiffani Callahan-Griffin, Wesley Griffin

Attorney Cynthia Chandler Snell and Tiffani Callahan-Griffin
The child abuse case against a Martin toddler was described as one of the most difficult cases ever presented in Weakley County Circuit Court by not only the judge, but the prosecuting attorney as well. As a result, Tiffani Callahan-Griffin and her husband Wesley Griffin will spend prison time with the Tennessee Department of Corrections. “The tragic injuries inflicted upon this beautiful, healthy child has caused tragedy for all who love him. We know these are not accidental injuries. I don’t know who did this, but both have pled guilty to failing to protect this child. We believe confinement is necessary as to not lessen the seriousness of this case,” Attorney General Tommy Thomas said during closing arguments of a sentencing hearing held Tuesday in circuit court. The couple initially faced charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect after Austin Cash, a toddler in their custody, was taken to a local emergency room suffering from significant head injuries. Cash was airlifted to LeBonhuer Children’s Hospital in Memphis last summer in critical condition. His stepmother and biological father were indicted for their role in inflicting those injuries on the 19-month-old child. Earlier this year, Callahan-Griffin pled guilty to aggravated assault, count four of her indictment. Wesley Griffin later pled guilty to aggravated assault. Both admitted to failure to protect the child. Preliminary reports of Cash’s condition when transported to Memphis show he suffered from two skull fractures, bleeding on his brain and hemorrhaging behind his eyes. Dr. Karen Lakin, a pediatrician and medical director of children’s services for LeBonhuer testified during the couple’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday. “We did not expect him to survive when he first arrived at our hospital,” Lakin said. She explained Cash’s condition prompted the surgical implant of a shunt in his head to allow fluid to drain from his brain. “He cannot eat without choking because he cannot swallow due to the brain damage. He has a feeding tube in his stomach so that he can eat. His normal brain function has been impaired,” Lakin said. His injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome, according to Lakin. She also testified the toddler will not be able to function independently and his life expectancy will be shorter than normal. “This is the most serious bodily injury that I’ve seen since I’ve been on the bench,” 27th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge William Acree stated. When Callahan-Griffin took the witness stand, she placed blame on her husband for Cash’s condition and told the court she feared what might happen to the other two children in the home if she told anyone Griffin had abused the child. The circuit court judge told Callahan-Griffin later that he did not believe there was truth to her statements. “You have shown no remorse. You have manipulated this court and placed blame on your husband,” Acree said. In lieu of probation requested by Cynthia Chandler Snell on behalf of her client, Callahan-Griffin, Acree ordered the stepmother of the toddler to spend six years with the TDOC. “Your role was not minor in this instance, but you played a lesser role. There is a need for clearance in this case and you are not a candidate for alternative sentencing,” Acree said to Griffin. He sentenced Cash’s father to five years with the TDOC. “This is perhaps the most difficult case I have ever had to prosecute. These are horrible, tragic injuries inflicted upon this child. But I did not want to try and convict an innocent person and send that person to prison for 15 or 25 years unless I am sure of who did this,” Thomas stated after the hearing. With three conflicting statements given by Callahan-Griffin during the investigation of the case combined with a willingness by Griffin to follow his spouse’s footsteps and plead guilty to aggravated assault, it remains unclear who actually inflicted the life-altering injuries upon the child. “Her sentence will never be enough for the way Austin’s life is now. Justice hasn’t been served because if he dies tomorrow, they’ll be walking free,” Cash’s biological mother April Cash commented during the hearing. Ms. Cash said she “knew” Callahan-Griffin was the person who abused her son. “She has made a fool out of everyone – our family, the courts and everybody involved in this case. But she doesn’t have to suffer; we do,” Ms. Cash added. The couple will have to serve a minimum of 30 percent of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Griffin received seven months of jail credit. WCP 11.20.08

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