Marine to be jailed 6 years in infant’s death
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Lance Cpl. James J. Boston showed no visible reaction Tuesday when he was sentenced to six years in prison for shaking his 2-month-old daughter to death in January.
Convicted of involuntary manslaughter after a six-day trial for murder, Boston told the court-martial panel that he will always love the baby who died in his arms.
"We had two wonderful months with Tahirah," he said softly while standing in front of the six officers who convicted him. "She was our pride and joy."
According to testimony, Boston was alone with Tahirah on Jan. 28 when she stopped breathing in the Ishikawa apartment he shared with the child’s mother, Lance Cpl. Eltrena Johnson. Tahirah was revived and rushed to a local hospital, where she was placed on life support.
She remained in a coma and died Feb. 10 in the Navy Medical Center in San Diego. Doctors who treated her diagnosed shaken baby syndrome. An autopsy listed the death as a homicide caused by non-accidental trauma.
Tahirah Boston had massive bleeding inside her brain, retinal hemorrhages in both eyes and six fractured ribs, all red flags for an abused child who had been shaken to death, expert witnesses said.
Boston, assigned to the 7th Communication Battalion on Camp Hansen, admitted to investigators that he had "lightly shaken" the baby to get her to start breathing. He was arrested and held in the brig since Feb. 6.
Boston faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Lt. Col. David Jones, his attorney, argued for a light sentence, noting the federal felony conviction and the horror of killing his daughter will follow him for the rest of his life.
"Every time he takes off his shirt and looks in the mirror he’ll see Tahirah right there, her name tattooed above his heart," Jones said. "This is a sad case because everyone in this courtroom can agree that Lance Cpl. Boston never intended to kill that child. … Whatever happened, it certainly was an accident."
Jones noted that Boston had no criminal record and character witnesses testified he was an excellent Marine who never displayed a temper. And Johnson testified she still intended to marry him.
"He’s got a good heart," Jones said. "He’s a good man."
Capt. Paul Ervasti, the lead prosecutor, argued for a stiff sentence, reminding the jury that Tahirah "never got a chance to be."
"The last thing she ever saw was looking into her killer’s eyes as she was shaken to death," Ervasti said. "Tahirah didn’t get what she deserved. She deserved a good life."