(WMC) - The trial for Maurice Brown Sr., who is accused of murdering his 3-year-old son, began Tuesday morning in Memphis.
Maurice Brown Jr. was reported missing on the evening of July 1, 2012. His father told investigators that his son was gone when he woke up on the couch. The little boy's body was found July 3 in a dumpster.
On Tuesday morning, the prosecution called Maurice Brown Jr.'s biological mother, LaToya Kanneh, to the stand before the jury entered the courtroom. She testified that she and Maurice Brown Sr. had an argument on Valentine's Day 2010 that left her with two black eyes and a broken nose. That's when she told him she wouldn't see him anymore.
When cross-examined by the defense, Kanneh testified that the kids were crazy about Brown and she never saw him act violently toward them.
At the time of the little boy's death, Kanneh had full custody of Maurice Brown Jr. She said the boy's father "very rarely" provided financial assistance when she had custody.
Following the testimony, the judge ruled that Kanneh could testify that they had a fight, but she could not talk about her injuries or the arrest because it could unfairly prejudice the jury.
The jury was brought into the courtroom around 11:30 a.m. and was sworn in.
When prosecutors read the indictment, tears could be seen running down Brown's face.
Prosecutor Jennifer Nichols delivered the state's opening statement, recounting how officers found the boy's body in the dumpster.
"Amidst the common household, everyday garbage, was two little feet," she said. "Little boy weighed 30 pounds. Forty inches long."
She added, "With multiple contusions and abrasions to his head, his injuries caused him to bleed to death internally."
Nichols added that the day before the 3-year-old went missing, Brown and Kanneh had an argument on the phone.
Brown called her and wanted her to pick the boy up, but she told him she could only drive halfway from Pine Bluff, Ark. Kanneh testified that during the argument, Brown cursed her out, and she hung up on him without finalizing any plans to pick up her son.
"I should've just came and got him," she sobbed on the witness stand. "I should've just came and got him. I should've just came and got him. I'm sorry."
When she got the call that the Maurice Brown Jr. was missing, she drove to Memphis right away. She testified that she was hopeful from the start.
"Did you believe you were going to find your little boy?" Nichols asked.
To which Kanneh replied, "I was most definitely. I was going to find him."
Prosecutors say Maurice Brown Sr. was angry with Kanneh, so when the 3-year-old wet himself at the dinner table, he turned his rage on the boy.
Defense attorney John Perry says Brown did not beat his son to death, but instead, merely spanked him to discipline him.
"Daddy got pissed off. That's how it happens," Perry said. "It was an incident that went wrong, dead wrong. How he responded to it was dead wrong."
He continued, "And maybe that spanking went a little too far and he's going to explain that."
Perry says Brown later found his son unresponsive in bed and did CPR until his arms went numb. He says Brown wanted to bring the boy Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, which is located just a few blocks from his apartment, but went to the dumpster instead.
"He saw that dead body and panicked," Perry said. "There is no natural response to an unnatural event."
Kanneh said shortly after Brown was charged, he called her from jail while she was making funeral arrangements.
"And he was like, 'Well, you and Tiara, y'all get together and try to get me a lawyer,' and I hung up the phone in his face because he ain't showed no type of concern about me making funeral arrangement for my son. So I hung up the phone," she said.
Testimony continues in the case. If convicted, Maurice Brown Sr. faces the possibility of life in prison.
WMC Action News 5's Nick Kenney will be in the courtroom for the trial. He will be providing live updates on Twitter throughout the trial. Follow him at @nickthenewsguy.
If you are not on Twitter, his updates can be followed in this live blog: http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/category/286131/maurice-brown-sr-murder-trial