In-Depth: Critical arguments that could decide the trial of Joseph Daniels

joe clyde daniels
Posted at 3:39 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 23:01:50-04

CHARLOTTE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The murder trial of Joseph Daniels, a Dickson County man accused of killing his son Joe Clyde Daniels in 2018, is a complicated one that's now lasted for four days. It includes a lack of evidence, a recanted confession, and multiple theories of what could have happened to 5-year-old Joe.

Here are some are the critical points made during the trial that the jury will have to keep in mind as they make their decision.

Joe Clyde’s mental disability:

The 5-year-old boy has autism and, for the most part, does not speak. Joe Clyde’s speech pathologist testified that Joe Clyde struggled to verbalize certain words, but between sounding out words and his non-verbal skills, he was making great progress.

The prosecution also entered in evidence an alphabet lock that was sometimes used in class - an alphabet block that when placed together the correct way would unlock.

Videos of Joe Clyde played in Joseph Daniels trial 2

She testified that the 5-year-old often struggled to undo the lock, and when he did, he was often very loud.

The confession:

Joseph Daniels told investigators he killed Joe Clyde, but later recanted the confession. His attorney argues the investigators coerced Daniels, who is mentally ill, to make the false statement.

The jury watched the confession on day 5 of the trial. The interview actually lasted five hours, but about two hours of it was played for the jury.

For the first 90 minutes of the tape, Daniels remains firm that he didn't hurt or kill Joe Clyde. But, toward the end of the tape, Daniels admits to repeatedly beating Joe Clyde for urinating on the floor. He says he lost control and Joe Clyde eventually became unresponsive. Daniels says during the confession video that he put the 5-year-old in the trunk of his car.

Daniels also shared where the body might be, but Joe Clyde has never been found.

But the defense said the confession was coerced by investigators and that Joseph was lying just to end the interview. Defense Attorney Jake Lockert tried to push Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Joey Boyd, who conducted the interview, during cross-examination on that point.

He questioned Boyd multiple times on his interrogation method and why he would interrupt Daniels when he would claim his innocence. Lockert argued that Boyd put the confession in Daniels' mind and coerced him to say it.

The DA was quick to remind the jury that Daniels was at the interview under his own volition and could leave at any time.

Joseph’s mental capacity:

The defense argues that because of Joseph’s mental disability, he was able to be coerced into making a false confession. However, in 2018, Daniels underwent a mental evaluation in which it was determined that he was competent to stand trial.

The lack of physical evidence:

Former Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe took the stand and was asked about the scope of the search and investigation through pictures, videos and maps.

While cross-examining Bledsoe, the defense asked him about any physical evidence in this case and the former sheriff said that to this day there has not been any physical evidence pointing to the murder of Joe.

"And was any physical evidence found indicating that Joe Clyde Daniels was murdered," the attorney asked.

"Not that I was involved with," Bledsoe answered.

"And was there any physical evidence that indicated Joe Clyde Daniels was even dead?"

"No sir. Not that I’m aware of," Bledsoe answered.

Joe Clyde’s brothers:

Two emergency responders -- one from TEMA and the other from Maury County EMA -- testified that they heard Joe Clyde’s 3-year-old brother ask his aunt if Joe Clyde was dead. District Attorney Ray Crouch said they heard the younger brother ask, “Joe dead? Joe dead? Joe dead?,” and his Aunt Joyce replied, "yes baby, Joe dead."

His older half-brother Alex, who was then 8 years old, took the stand Monday in which he testified to seeing and hearing Joseph beat Joe Clyde the night in question and carry his body out of the house.

He said when Joseph spotted him watching he threatened him. "He threatened that he would kill me if I didn’t help," said Alex.

But the defense argued Alex’s credibility since his story has changed multiple times. The defense played videos of police interviews with Alex shortly after Joe Clyde disappeared. In the first video, he defended his step-father Joseph, saying he didn’t do anything wrong. In the second video, Alex goes into a wild story about blood apples, blue men, teleporting and tigers. But he also told the investigator he was really scared that someone would hurt him and get into the building to hear what he was saying.

While on the stand, Alex explained his story is different now because he recently remembered, saying, "When did I change my story? Whenever I remembered. It was blocked off until a couple months ago."

The lock and coffee table:

Photos from the Daniels’ home showed a lock on the outside of the door on the master bedroom. The prosecution used it to suggest that Joe’s parents would lock him in the master bedroom as it could only be locked from the outside.

Another of the prosecution’s witnesses, Chad Bailey with Maury County EMA testified that Joseph Daniels told him and other investigators on the afternoon Joe went missing that he believed Joe Clyde pushed the coffee table to the door, climbed on top, unlocked the master lock, climbed back down and moved the table back.

The prosecution said this is the lock and key on the Daniels' home outside door that was meant to keep Joe Clyde inside the home.
Lock and key on the Daniels' home outside door that was meant to keep Joe Clyde inside the home.
The prosecution said this is the lock and key on the Daniels' home outside door that was meant to keep Joe Clyde inside the home.

However, DA Crouch made the point throughout the trial that Joe’s

During an interview the day after his disappearance, Joseph Daniels told investigators his wife had caught Baby Joe trying to unlock the padlocked door once before. He said she found him with the key in the lock, but couldn't remember when the instance was. In other interviews, Joseph had told investigators that Joe had gotten out six months before his disappearance, which prompted the parents to get the lock.

Closing Arguments:

Assistant District Attorney Josh Turnbow delivers closing argument
Defense Att. Matthew Mitchell delivers closing argument; state delivers rebuttal