Tuesday, February 6, 2024–2:41 p.m.
-John Bailey, Rome News-Tribune-
This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at northwestgeorgianews.com.
Georgia’s highest court upheld the murder conviction and life without parole sentence for a man convicted of the 2018 murder of a two-year-old child.
Hassan Shareef Rashad was convicted of the brutal beating death of 2-year-old Adrian “Tank” Mitchell Jr. in November 2021 but appealed that conviction.
Rashad claimed that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of murder and that his attorney at trial failed to protect his constitutional rights. Many of his objections center around the admissibility of gruesome autopsy photos showing the injuries Rashad inflicted on the two-year-old child as well as “evidence of his bad character” submitted at trial.
That evidence included Rashad’s threatening actions toward the child’s grandfather who suspected that Rashad had earlier broken the boy’s leg.
Justices disagreed with his assertions and upheld his conviction, according to an opinion released on Tuesday.
“We are very pleased with the (Georgia) Supreme Court’s opinion on this case,” Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson said. “A little child nicknamed Tank deserved a much better life than was taken from him by the defendant. The defendant’s life without parole sentence stands and he is right where he needs to be.”
History of the case
On April 13, 2018, 2-year-old Tank was admitted unresponsive to the hospital. He had been brutally beaten by his mother’s boyfriend while she worked the night shift.
It hadn’t been the first time he was hurt. Six months before, in October 2017, his leg had been broken and there had been signs of abuse. There hadn’t been an arrest in that incident, but doctors who worked to save Tank’s life in 2018 said they could see signs of pervasive abuse.
A series of medical examiners testified during the trial that the little boy suffered brain injuries and a fractured skull along with multiple internal injuries, including a lacerated liver.
The child’s mother, Sydney Dean, originally attempted to protect her boyfriend. But later police arrested Rashad, who was the only person with Tank that night, and when the toddler died. Dean testified against Rashad later and he was convicted of malice murder.
Sydney Dean, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years, to serve eight in prison.
During the sentencing Tank’s grandfather, Darryl Dean, said that his daughter and his grandson made up two of the four chambers of his heart. Rashad took that away from him, he told the court.