Court: Woman Sane When She Murdered Foster Daughter

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- Jurors in Martinez deliberated for a little more than an hour Friday before finding that an Antioch woman was sane when she tortured and abused her two foster children and murdered one of them in 2008.

Shemeeka Davis, 40, sobbed uncontrollably as the verdict was read.

In June, the same jury convicted Davis of first-degree murder and two counts each of torture and child abuse for the torture, abuse and killing of her niece, 15-year-old Jazzmin Davis, and the torture and abuse of Jazzmin's twin brother, who survived.

She now faces up to two life sentences for her crimes.

Prosecutor Satish Jallepalli said during the trial that Davis had beat 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 on Sept. 2, 2008, she was so malnourished that she only weighed 78 pounds. She was 5 feet 7 inches tall. Her brother was also severely malnourished.

Davis also withheld medical treatment from the children and prevented Jazzmin from going to school for about a year before her death.

Her attorney Betty Barker argued during trial that Davis was legally insane and suffered from several severe mental illnesses, including psychotic delusions, which 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 went to great lengths to conceal the abuse, which showed that she knew what she was doing was wrong and that she was therefore legally sane when she committed her crimes.

"I'm glad the jury saw what was kept behind locked doors in that closet," Jallepalli said outside the courthouse this afternoon.

"Justice has been served," said Mysha Gregory, the twins' aunt on their mother's side.

During closing arguments, Barker said Davis was the only person in the family who stepped up to take care of Jazzmin and her brother.

Gregory, however, said members of her side of the family had tried to reach out to Davis and the twins, but Davis cut them off.

"All the doctors agreed that she was very, very mentally ill," Barker said.

"Now she will spend the rest of her life in prison without the mental health help she needs," Barker said.

Barker said that Davis is still mentally ill and even with the medications she is on, she continued to disassociate throughout the trial, which was held in two phases, the first to determine Davis' guilt and the second to determine whether she was legally sane at the time.

After the verdict was read, Davis was crying too hard to be able to set a date for sentencing. She is scheduled to return to Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez on Tuesday to set a sentencing date.

Since Jazzmin's death, the San Francisco Human Services Agency, which was in charge of overseeing Davis' care of the twins, has agreed to a $4 million settlement with Jazzmin's brother.

The Antioch Unified School District board has also approved a $750,000 settlement with Jazzmin's brother and made changes to the district's attendance policy.