A Georgia jury heard from members of a middle Tennessee church Monday. They testified at the murder trial of two members of The Brentwood-based Remnant Fellowship Church. Sonia and Joseph Smith are charged with killing their 8-year-old son Josef in 2003. more>>
Police are learning more about what may have happened inside the Brentwood-based Remnant Fellowship. Its teachings about the discipline of children were the subject of NewsChannel 5's "Firm Beliefs" investigation.more>>
The two-week trial of Sonia and Joseph Smith ended Friday. The jury found the members of Brentwood's Remnant Fellowship Church guilty on 11 of the 14-count indictment.
The couple who said they were simply disciplining their son will go to prison.
The Smith'sheard the word guilty over and over Friday afternoon as the jury announced the guilty verdicts including involuntary manslaughter, felony murder, cruelty to children and false imprisonment.
"I really thought the government had not explained a manner of death in this case, and when they came back with two, I was just shocked," defense attorney Manny Aurora said.
Throughout the two-week trial, the state of Georgia said the Smith's chronically abused their 8-year-old son, Josef, causing his death. The jury agreed.
"They felt like they committed these acts and it did result in the death, and that's what felony murder is," prosecutor Eleanor Dixon said.
The Smith's admitted to investigators they followed the church guidelines when disciplining Josef. Prosecutors said the Brentwood church didn't have much of an impact on the trial.
"I don't think they considered anything regarding the church. They didn't really hear anything about the church other than the members who is came to testify," Dixon
Aurora tried to convince the jury Josef suffered from a skin condition called eczema. He said the jury didn't buy the theory.
"It was just too many injuries for them to say it was all eczema. It's hard to break down very specific marks," Aurora said.
None of the members of the Remnant Fellowship Church who sat in the courtroom every day of the trial would talk to reporters afterwards. The jurors also decided they did not want to speak out at conclusion of the trial.
The conviction came on the day Josef would have turned 12.
The Smith's will be sentenced on March 27. Even though they face life in prison, Georgia law makes them eligible for parole in 30 years.