Shawntrell Dawkins
Shawntrell Dawkins, 33, (c) is charged with murder, capital murder and injury to a child in the death of Milayna Harris, 2. Here Dawkins reenters the courtroom after the lunch break during the opening day of her trial in the 409th District Court before Judge Sam Medrano Jr. (Ruben R Ramirez/El Paso Times)
›› Live Twitter updates: Shawntrell Dawkins trial in goddaughter's beating death

Jurors, some visibly upset, began hearing testimony on Monday in the capital murder trial of a 33-year-old woman accused in her young goddaughter's beating death.

Shawntrell Dawkins is charged with capital murder in the April 2008 death of Milayna Harris, 2. If convicted of the charge, Dawkins faces life in prison without parole.

On Monday morning, the jury, which consists of five women and seven men, saw three photos of Milayna's body as it looked after she arrived in the emergency room of Thomason Hospital, now known as University Medical Center.

REPORTER
Adriana M. Chávez

In one photo, Milayna's eyes are open and a large bruise is apparent on her forehead. In another, numerous bruises dot her arms, legs and stomach.

At least two jurors wiped away tears as they viewed the photos. When prosecutors displayed them a second time, one juror closed her eyes and looked away, while another bowed his head.

Dawkins, who has been jailed since her 2008 arrest, was also seen wiping away tears during Monday's testimony, and at times glancing at the ceiling as if praying.

Firefighter and paramedic Corbin Phelps testified that on the night of Milayna's death, he arrived at Dawkins' apartment in the 7900 block of Viscount after Dawkins called 911 to report Milayna had fallen and was unresponsive.

Phelps said he noted in a written report that it appeared Milayna had been assaulted and was covered in bruises in various stages of healing. It also appeared Milayna's right shoulder had been dislocated, Phelps wrote.

Dawkins told 911 dispatchers that Milayna had fallen down the apartment's stairs while playing with a dog belonging to Dawkins and her husband, Nakia Dawkins, a former Fort Bliss soldier who was also charged in Milayna's death.

Phelps admitted during questioning by defense attorney Stuart Leeds he didn't enter the apartment to see the stairs, which another witness described as steep.

During the 911 call, which jurors heard Monday, Nakia Dawkins is heard administering CPR to Milayna, who can also be heard gurgling after Nakia Dawkins breathed into her mouth.

While Shawntrell Dawkins is talking to the 911 operator about Milayna's injuries, Nakia Dawkins is heard saying, "I know what they're going to think and that's not what I want them to think."

El Paso police Officer Anthony Alegre, who also responded to the apartment the night of Milayna's death, testified he and another officer placed Nakia Dawkins and Milayna's older brother in separate patrol vehicles.

Prosecutors then played a video recording of Nakia Dawkins in the patrol car having a cell phone conversation with his Army supervisor.

"It's kind of a hot mess," Nakia Dawkins said while on the phone. "It looks like I hit these kids but I don't. It's just looking bad for me, though. Don't get me wrong, I beat her (expletive) when she does something wrong."

He's also heard saying, "I'm going to (expletive) jail."

In 2010, a jury found Nakia Dawkins of injury to a child but deadlocked on a sentence. He remains jailed while awaiting a new sentencing date.

Jurors heard Nakia Dawkins' videotaped statement to police, in which he described himself as the "heavy handed one" when it came to Milayna, who was often disciplined for soiling herself instead of going to the bathroom.

Dawkins also told police homicide detectives he and his wife used a belt to whip Milayna, and described the girl as being mentally ill because she often disobeyed Nakia and Shawntrell Dawkins.

In his statement, Nakia Dawkins tells the detectives that the numerous bruises on Milayna's legs "are the belt and her. She self-inflicts a lot of her injuries, which bothers me, too."

This morning, jurors are expected to watch Shawntrell Dawkins' videotaped police statement.

Her trial is taking place in the 409th District Court before Judge Sam Medrano Jr.

Adriana M. Chávez may be reached at achavez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6117. Follow her on Twitter @AChavezEPTimes