Jeffery Tippett guilty of manslaughter

Family of 11-month-old Tameron Rose responds to verdict

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on July 9, 2011
A mistrial has been declared in the case of Jeffery Tippett, shown here in Supreme Court in Corner Brook Thursday.
Gary Kean/The Western Star

“Thank you.”

Those were the words Evelyn Rose muttered the moment Jeffery Tippett, the man accused of killing her grandson in 2007, was declared guilty of manslaughter Friday evening.

The eight-woman, four-man jury delivered the guilty verdict around 8 p.m. after deliberating on the case against Tippett for a little more than eight hours.

The verdict was actually reached shortly after 7:30 p.m., but was not formally read out in court until all of the lawyers involved and, more importantly, the family of 11-month-old Tameron Rose could be summoned to the courtroom to hear the jury’s decision.

When asked if her thanks were directed towards the jury or to the heavens, Rose said “both” but commended the jury for believing in her and her daughter Maria’s story and bringing long-awaited justice to Maria’s son.

“(Tameron) was the innocent in all of this,” said Evelyn Rose. “It should never have happened.”

It has been a long four and a half years for the Roses since Jan. 30, 2007, the day they dropped Tameron off to be cared for by Tippett and his common-law spouse Tanya Tulk. When they saw Tameron next later that day, he was unconscious and unresponsive in the emergency room at Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook.

Maria Rose and her mother had to hire a taxi cab later that night to drive them to St. John’s because there was not enough room for them on the air ambulance flight when Tameron had to be transported to the Janeway Children’s Hospital to receive more intensive treatment for the serious head injury he had sustained.

By the time they arrived in St. John’s the following morning, Tameron was brain dead.

This was the third attempt to prosecute Tippett. His lawyer withdrew from representing him on the day the first trial was to start in September 2009. The second trial ended prematurely in September 2010 when a mistrial was declared because Royal Newfoundland Constabulary investigators had failed to disclose evidence pertaining to possible DNA evidence on a crib in Tippett’s home.

After all that, Maria Rose was glad she did not have to deal with a not guilty verdict Friday evening.

“I thought I was (prepared for the possibility of a not guilty verdict),” she said. “Thankfully, I never had to test that theory.”

Maria said she was confident Tippett would get convicted.

“But we are talking about (what) the jury (thought), not me ... I just knew (there would be a guilty verdict),” she said.

The case was not an easy one for the jury since there was no direct evidence concerning what Tippett did exactly to cause the skull fracture at the back of Tameron’s head which ultimately led to a fatal swelling of his brain.

At times, the defence raised the notion that maybe someone else, perhaps Tulk or maybe someone in the Rose household or even an unobserved accident, was actually responsible for Tameron getting hurt before he was dropped off at Tippett’s home.

Maria, who attended court as much as she could, said it was difficult being in the same room with the man now convicted of taking her baby’s life, but it was the memory of her only child that kept her and her mother, who attended court almost every day, strong through the entire ordeal.

“I wanted to know what was being said,” she commented about attending court. “Somebody had to be there for Tameron.”

While the Roses were expressing relief at the verdict, Tippett showed a rare moment of emotion on the other side of the courtroom when the verdict came down. He slumped forward in the prisoner’s box in near disbelief at the turn of events.

Tippett, who had taken the stand in his own defence, had maintained his innocence right from the first statements he gave to police while efforts were being made to save Tameron’s life in St. John’s. Right until he testified himself, he never waivered from his story that he had no idea what caused Tameron to faint in his arms that afternoon.

“He’s devastated,” said Tippett’s lawyer, Keir O’Flaherty, who spoke with his client briefly before he was led from the courtroom.

“Our conversation we had after the jury left the room was simply checking out how he was feeling. There was nothing said of any significance. I was just concerned about how he was.”

O’Flaherty will meet with Tippett this morning to discuss the next steps in the case. The matter will be called in court again Tuesday to set a date for sentencing and to see if the defence would like a pre-sentence report on Tippett prepared.

Justice Alan Seaborn informed O’Flaherty and Crown attorney Douglas Howell that he would prefer to set a date for sentencing during the week of Aug. 22-26. Otherwise, said the judge, the sentencing would have to wait until October.

O’Flaherty said it is far too early to consider whether or not the defence will appeal the decision.

While he felt the defence had made a strong case, O’Flaherty said the medical evidence presented by the defence simply was not as persuasive to this jury as the medical evidence brought forth by the Crown.

“The Crown did an excellent job on the case,” said O’Flaherty. “We also would have to congratulate Mr. Howell on his final submissions, which were excellent.”

Howell’s case may not have been able to tell the jury what Tippett did to injury Tameron, but it did set the scene for the jury to believe that Tippett was the only person who had the opportunity to have hurt the child, including that Tippett may have had a momentary lapse in judgement brought about by mounting frustrations that fateful afternoon.

“Any case involving the death of a child is always a difficult case on a number of levels in terms of the evidence that has to be called and  obviously the emotional aspect that comes with that kind of a case,” said Howell.

The Crown attorney said getting a conviction in a case involving circumstantial evidence  is not so much difficult, but rather it involves taking an alternative approach compared to when there is direct evidence available.

“Circumstantial evidence is, as the judge explained (to the jury), evidence like any other evidence,” said Howell. “It just has to be treated in a different way. So, it’s not a question of whether or not it’s hard. It’s a question of following a different path when assessing that kind of evidence.”