Joseph and Sonya Smith of Mabelton, Georgia stand accused of murdering their eight-year-old son Josef in October 2003.
On Thursday, Josef’s older brother, 16-year-old Michael, echoed his parents’ claims that Josef believed he was possessed by the devil. He said, “He pulled knives out on me, threatened to kill me, threatened to kill my mom, threatened to kill my little brother James. We tried talking to him, taking him to church, tried to see what was wrong because he said he was possessed by Legion.”
The jury then got a startling look at the box where the family admits they locked little Josef on the day he died.
At first, Michael told prosecutors his parents closed Josef in the small container. On Wednesday, he said he did it.
Then, Josef let the detail slip that caused the defense to call for a mistrial. He told the jury his parents had another child die three months earlier.
Defense Attorney Manny Arora moved for a mistrial, saying the court had disallowed this evidence prior to trial. Going as far as saying the judge must not have been paying attention.
The judge was having none of it. Judge James Bodiford did not grant a mistrial.
The judge recessed the trial, but beforere convening Wednesday afternoon, Defense Attorney Manny Arora apologized to the judge for the mistake. Court records show there was no mention of this evidence in pre-trial meetings and testimony continued.
Members of the Remnant Fellowship Church, where the Smith’s belonged, believe and teach that spanking children is ordained by God.
Many parents who choose to spank their children quote what they think is scripture, “Spare the rod; spoil the child.” You cannot, however, find those actual words in the Bible and the phrase actually comes from a love poem written in the 1600s.
In the Old Testament,there are several verses of scripture that many believe supports parents spanking their children.
Lisa Howe and Micaela Crowley come from two different families and two different generations. One thing was the same, they were both spanked.
Both come from Christian families who believe God’s way of training up children is to use a belt, or a switch or the back of a hand to either punish a child or correct them.
Belmont religion professor Dr. Andy Watts said, “Corporal punishment is something allowed by the Bible, especially in the Old Testament and Christians read it as direct rules on guidelines for punishing children.”
Dr. Watts said the Book of Proverbs, written, many think by King Solomon, is where parents get those instructions.
Chapter 13 Verse 24 says “He who spares the rod, hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” and Chapter 29 Verse 15 says “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.”
Watts said he doesn’t believe those verses should be taken as literally as many Christians do.
In the case of Remnant Fellowship believers who, according to many former members, whip their children with glue sticks until they stop the bad behavior… is more than likelyabuse.
Dr. Watts said, “I think most Christians would look at this and say they went too far and that kind of belief system goes too far in trying to correct children’s behavior… Most Christians would say that it’s okay to physically harm your child in order to deter them from further behavior.”
Some believe those verses, written by King Solomon came from his choice of punishment of his son Rehoboam.
Rehoboam grew up to be one the most hated rulers in the Old Testament and was nearly assassinated by his own people.
Newer translations of the Bible have removed reference to using a rod and simply instruct parents to usediscipline.
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