Morris knew what he did was wrong in killing daughter

Thursday, May 04, 2017

A Hennepin County District Court judge found Cory Morris criminally responsible for the beating death of his baby daughter. He will be sentenced on June 2, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday.

The judge rejected Morris' claim that he should be found not guilty due to mental illness. That Hennepin County District Court judge, Kerry Meyer, found Morris, 22, guilty last month of killing Emerysn. However, her decision on his mental state was issued Monday. Prosecutors will be seeking an enhanced sentence of 40 years in prison.

The second phase of the trial centered on dueling opinions by two psychologists over whether Morris was so mentally ill that he either did not know the nature of the act or that it was wrong. Testimony during the first part of the trial on his guilt brought out that he had struggled with mental illness for several years and had been on medication to deal with his schizophrenia, although he probably had stopped taking it two months before he beat his daughter to death on Aug. 13, 2016.

Both psychologists said Morris was suffering from active symptoms of mental illness at the time of the murder. However, Dr. Lawrence Panciera, the court psychologist, said Morris was “delusional, irrational and unreasonable in perception” so he was too mentally ill to be responsible for his actions.

Dr. Shane Wernsing testified on behalf of the prosecution and pointed to a lot of evidence, including Morris’ conversations with his mother, police and the 911 operator immediately afterward, that showed he knew he was hitting his baby and that it was wrong.

Judge Meyer found Wernsing’s analysis persuasive. Meyer also agreed with assistant Hennepin County Attorney Christina Warren that Morris could be eligible for a higher sentence than he would ordinarily receive under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. The aggravating circumstances that would allow the tougher sentence were his abuse of his position of authority as her father, that her young age made her vulnerable and her death was committed with particular cruelty.

Morris called 911 just before 5 p.m. and said he had killed his daughter at the couple’s home at 1907 Franklin Ave. S.E. According to the criminal complaint, he was watching television when Emersyn, who was not quite five months old, began making baby talk noises.
 
He took her out of her baby swing. He carried her into a bedroom and placed her on the changing table and she continued making noises. So he punched her numerous times in the face and chest, the complaint states.