A 34-year-old Indianapolis man passed away in February after being severely injured in 1988. While his death is being considered a homicide, it’s unclear whether the suspect will face any further repercussions.
Life changed dramatically for 2-month-old Patrick on Jan. 6, 1988. Police were called to a residence after he was found severely injured.
At the following trial, the prosecutor said the baby would not stop crying, and John Edward Coleman, 22, shook him out of anger and tried to quiet him, according to a 1988 article from the IndyStar as referenced by WXIN. That same article also stated that Coleman had been visiting the home and had been asked by the child’s grandmother to watch Patrick while the grandmother went to pick up Patrick’s mom, who was 15 and at school.
34yo Patrick Mitchell lived his entire life brain damaged and bed-ridden after being abused at 2-months-old.
Patrick died over the weekend.
His death is now a homicide, but because the suspect was previously convicted of battery, the homicide may not be able to be prosecuted. pic.twitter.com/EG3MRbbVER
— Jesse Wells (@JesseWellsNews) February 14, 2022
Tragically, Patrick spent the next 34 years blind, immobile and deaf, never moving past that horrible day and the damage Coleman did to him.
Coleman was found guilty of felony battery resulting in serious injury and spent some time in the Indiana Department of Corrections.
Patrick’s uncle and aunt, James Mitchell and his wife Mary, have been caring for Patrick ever since.
“He was shaken and it caused a massive brain hemorrhage,” James told WXIN.
“He had a tracheotomy in his throat, gastric tube in his stomach. He couldn’t walk, talk, see, hear. He couldn’t communicate any way whatsoever.”
While Coleman has already done time for the initial damage he imposed on Patrick, the Indiana Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) has ruled Patrick’s death on Feb. 12, 2022, a homicide. James hopes that means more time for Coleman.
“He suffered bad,” James, who cared for Patrick day in and out for all those years, said. “I mean he never knew anything other than a 2-month-old baby in his mind.”
“They should reopen it and charge him after the fact with murder. Just because Patrick was a baby when he got injured, shouldn’t make no difference.”
Since Patrick’s passing, James has made his position very clear and has shared two images publicly so the world is reminded of Patrick’s story. One photo shows Patrick as a 2-year-old, and the other as a 34-year-old, before his death.
Since Coleman was already charged for the crime of injuring Patrick, it’s unclear whether he will be tried further because of the rule known as double jeopardy, where someone cannot be prosecuted for the same crime twice.
“The obvious question in a case like this is ‘what is the same offense?’ Is the battery that he was convicted of back in 1988 the same offense as a potential homicide charge today?” said Joseph Hoffman, law professor at Indiana University Bloomington.
“It’s not a clear cut situation. To be honest, the Indiana law of double jeopardy is a little bit in turmoil right now because the lower courts in Indiana are trying to make sense out of the new test that was declared by the Indiana Supreme Court, and it’s not 100% clear how it would come out as a matter of Indiana law.”
An autopsy should be able to help officials determine if there’s a potential case, according to what the Marion County prosecutor told WRTV.
Lt. Shane Foley with the IMPD said that they would be pursuing the case: “IMPD will make additional investigative steps and will then present the case to the MCPO for a determination if charges are possible.”