Moments before the jury arrived, 16-year-old LaTonya T. Crawford similed warmly to a relative as she entered the Towson courtroom and took her seat.
Moments later, she was sobbing uncontrollably, her head buried at the defense table, as prosecutor Louis Carrico began making his case to the men and women who must decide whether she murdered her infant son last Dec. 23.
"When children were thinking of Christmas and Christmas Eve," Mr. Carrico said, "an autopsy was done on Todd Crawford. That autopsy showed that Todd . . ."
Here the assistant state's attorney had to stop, as the Dundalk teen-ager's sobs echoed through the panelled courtroom, forcing a five-minute halt in the proceedings.
When Mr. Carrico resumed, he said the state would prove that Miss Crawford had beaten her 20-month-old son to death, inflicting four broken ribs, a lacerated liver, a punctured spleen and numerous bruises.
But John Calhoun, Miss Crawford's attorney, told the jury in his opening address that his client had not beaten her child to death, hinting that someone else was responsible.
"There is more to this case than meets the eye," said Mr. Calhoun, who spent a good portion of his opening describing his client's unhappy life.
Born to a mother with mental problems and a father who was alcoholic, Miss Crawford bounced from foster home to foster home, Mr. Calhoun said.
She was impregnated at age 13 by a step-brother and was a mother at 14, even though she herself was still living in a foster home in Turners Station.
Miss Crawford, said her lawyer, had to get up at 4 a.m. each day to catch two buses -- one to drop the baby off at day care, the other to get to Dundalk Senior High School, where she was in 10th grade last fall.
Mr. Calhoun described the home his client was living in at the time of her infant's death as a "pretty crazy place."
"There are two victims in this case," said Mr. Calhoun. "There's Todd Crawford, who is dead. I pray for his soul. But my client's on trial for murder, and she's a victim, too. Because she did not kill her child."
Miss Crawford was arrested Jan. 2, some 10 days after she brought Todd to the Francis Scott Key Medical Center. He died the day he arrived. After an autopsy and investigation, police charged Miss Crawford with the infant's death, saying she had thrown or pushed her child into a stroller because he wouldn't stay seated. She has been in jail since her arrest.