A man whose severely malnourished son, his body marked by bruises and bloody abrasions, was declared dead at a Towson hospital in 2007 became defensive and combative a few hours later when a detective suggested that the boy's death amounted to homicide.
"I did not murder my son!" John J. Griffin yelled, pounding a table in a police interview room, where the conversation was videotaped. "I will not have you or anyone else tell me that I murdered my son! Get me a lawyer, now!"
The interview was shown yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court on the second day of the bench trial of Griffin and his wife, Susan, both 39, on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of their son Andrew. He was 2 years and nine months old on Dec. 26, 2007, when, after being found unresponsive and immobile in his crib, he was taken by his father to the emergency room at St. Joseph Medical Center.
Hospital staff members, three of whom testified on the trial's first day, said they were shocked at the boy's grossly emaciated condition. An emergency medical technician said Andrew looked like "a Holocaust victim." They were unable to revive him.
Waiving his Miranda rights, John Griffin, a computer systems engineer, allowed Baltimore County police detective Morris Greenberg to interview him for almost two hours later that day before asking to speak with a lawyer.
The detective elicited from Griffin the observation that Andrew was "a little bit on the lean side" but was otherwise well and eating regular meals, "giggling and smiling" only hours before his death. Speaking quietly at first and occasionally yawning, Griffin said the child had "lost a lot of weight" a couple of months earlier during a bout of flu, but was not given any medications.
Griffin, who said he was away on business a great deal and ascribed 80 percent of the children's care to his wife, said he had not noticed that Andrew's condition was deteriorating, and was unaware of most of the injuries on his body, or how they got there. A few days before he died, Andrew developed a cold and seemed tired, Griffin said, "but other than that he's been normal."
In fact, the boy, at the time of his death, weighed about 13 pounds, roughly the weight of a typical 3-month-old, and was considerably smaller than most children his age. Griffin said that Andrew - one of the couple's five children at the time - had not been to a pediatrician since he was a year old because of an $80 billing dispute with the doctor's office.
Griffin, who said he had sought medical advice for the children from his mother and other relatives, said Andrew was prone to biting his lip, which might explain the blood on his face, and could have fallen out of his crib, which might account for the other bruises and abrasions on his body. He could not cite a cause for a pronounced bruise under the boy's right eye, or why he might have had small, pock-like injuries behind his ears and elsewhere on his body. Neither did Griffin provide a reason for the blood spatter on the walls and in the boy's bassinet, later proven by DNA tests to have been Andrew's.
"Where did all that blood come from?" Greenberg asked.
"I don't have the slightest idea," Griffin replied. "I really don't know. I'm shocked at what you're telling me here."
"That black eye didn't happen last night," Greenberg said at another point. "So how did it happen?"
"I don't know," Griffin responded. "I wasn't there."
As the conversation grew more heated, the detective said Griffin had not sought medical attention for his son before it was too late, and showed "a lack of concern" for his welfare. "He has all the marks of an abused child," Greenberg said. "At what point do you say, we've got to get this kid some help?"
Griffin recalled that only a few days earlier he and his wife had noticed that Andrew had gained a little weight in his legs. "I said, 'Great, hooray. Let's keep up the good work here.' "
The detective asked him point-blank whether he or his wife had abused the children. Griffin's answer was no, although he acknowledged spanking them on rare occasions. When Greenberg suggested that ignoring Andrew's health was tantamount to child abuse, Griffin grew agitated.
"I'm not aware that it's against the law not to take your children to the doctor," Griffin said, a remark that he later repeated. "I'm not going to look under a magnifying glass to see every little thing that's wrong with them."
"You wouldn't have to," the detective replied. "Those injuries are obvious."
Today, the court is expected to watch a videotaped interview with Susan Griffin that lasts almost nine hours. "I didn't kill this child," the mother says in the conversation, which The Baltimore Sun gained access to in October. "At least I didn't think I did in any conscious way."