A Baton Rouge couple accused of abusing their 20-month-old son in 2009, including allegedly leaving a burn mark from a fork on his body, will be tried separately, a judge ruled Monday over a prosecutor’s objections.
Steven Staggs, 29, the boy’s father, and Charlotte Staggs, 25, the child’s stepmother, are scheduled to stand trial Oct. 22 on one count each of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile, which carries up to 40 years in prison.
Prosecutor Charles Grey said he is inclined to try Charlotte Staggs first, on Oct. 22. Steven Staggs would be tried at a later date that has not been set.
Grey argued at a hearing Monday that Steven and Charlotte Staggs do not have “antagonistic defenses” and should be tried together.
“Severance is not warranted,” he told state District Judge Mike Erwin.
Charlotte Staggs’ attorney, Stephen Sterling, countered that antagonistic defenses are anticipated, which he said warrants the couple being tried separately.
“It would prejudice both (defendants) if they try this case together,” Sterling argued in support of his motion to sever the prosecution of the couple.
“I’d rather err on the side of severance,” Erwin said. “One of them’s going to blame the other for sure.”
Steven and Charlotte Staggs, 8717 Granite Drive, previously rejected the state’s offer to plead guilty in exchange for 25-year prison terms, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said.
East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested the couple Aug. 28, 2009, after deputies were called to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center to investigate a suspected child abuse case, an affidavit of probable cause said.
The boy was brought to the hospital that day after swallowing a bottle of fingernail polish remover, the affidavit stated. He was malnourished and dehydrated, had bruises and scrapes on his body and a burn mark from a fork on his body, the affidavit said.
Grey has said the boy is in the custody of his maternal grandmother.