Published March 02. 2014 4:00AM
Joseph E. Bynum, who is serving a 12-year prison sentence for nearly killing his former girlfriend's 13-month-old daughter in New London eight years ago, grudgingly admitted his crime for the first time during a recent parole hearing.
Seeking early release, which was ultimately denied, Bynum appeared before state Board of Pardons and Paroles members Pamela Richards and Robert A. Murphy via video feed from the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center.
The child's mother, Rose Dawson of Norwich, and other family members had written to the board urging them to deny parole and took part in the hearing via speakerphone.
Dawson this week provided The Day with a recording of the Dec. 20 parole hearing.
"What I don't think he's aware of is the fact that he's darn lucky he isn't in jail for my daughter's death," Dawson told the board. "I don't think he's ever accepted responsibility for his actions. I'm not sure how he would consider himself rehabilitated in any way."
Now 8 years old, the girl has made an amazing recovery, according to her mother, even though she still bears a noticeable scar on her head. Dawson said during a phone interview last week that she still feels guilty about leaving her daughter in Bynum's care while she went to drop off her other children at school on Oct. 4, 2006. She returned home to find him holding the limp and unresponsive child. He told her and the authorities that the baby fell off the couch, but police and medical staff were quick to suspect child abuse.
The child's injuries were so bad she had to be taken by Life Star helicopter to Yale-New Haven Hospital for emergency surgery to relieve bleeding on the brain. Hospital workers told police they found multiple contusions to the her back, spinal cord and abdomen as well as other head injuries, a leg fracture and retinal hemorrhages consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
A month later, New London police obtained a warrant for Bynum's arrest.
Bynum denied hurting the baby even as he pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a minor and was sentenced in New London Superior Court. With jury selection underway in November 2008, he entered his plea under the Alford Doctrine, which allowed him to accept a plea deal from the state without admitting guilt but acknowledging the state had enough evidence against him to get a conviction. He said somebody else hurt the little girl. He said he accepted responsibility only for "being there and sleeping."
In his pitch for early release during the December parole hearing, Bynum spoke of finding "a positive experience behind these walls" and listed a number of programs he has completed during his seven years of incarceration.
He said he had been denied parole once already, that he no longer wants to live under the control of others and that he has much to offer his son and his family.
What happened next left Bynum with no choice but to admit to his crime if he wanted to be considered for parole.
"Maybe I missed it, but did you say anything about the victims?" Richards from the parole board asked him.
"I had the time to mature and reflect on the pain I caused my victims," Bynum responded.
"OK, so you admit you hurt the child?" Richards asked.
"Yes, ma'am," Bynum said.
"Because I think before, you were saying the baby fell off the sofa and that was the extent of it?" Richards said.
"No ma'am," Bynum responded. "I was just under a lot of pain and I was ashamed and going through a lot of things."
Murphy, the other parole board member, pursued a similar line of questioning with Bynum.
"You lost your temper, is that what happened?" Murphy asked. "Yes, sir," Bynum responded.
Bynum admitted that he had been gambling at the casino the night before the incident and had been drinking and smoking marijuana, even though he was on probation for another offense and was prohibited from using drugs.
"Do you think you got a fair sentence?" Murphy asked.
Bynum said yes, but then said he didn't know because he isn't a lawyer.
"I'm assuming so," he said.
He has a criminal history dating back to 1998 that includes convictions for narcotics possession, driving offenses and breach of peace.
The parole board members met in closed session, then returned and told Bynum they were denying his application. They listed as their reasons for denial the nature and circumstances of the offense, the injury and impact on the victim and her family, his extensive criminal history and the commission of the crime while on probation.
Murphy told Bynum he would be doing his full sentence and wished him luck.
According to the Department of Correction, Bynum will be released on or before Feb. 4, 2018.
Dawson, in a phone interview this week, said that hearing Bynum finally admit he hurt her daughter brought no satisfaction.
"To be honest, the way he said it, it meant absolutely nothing," she said. "I felt like he said it to get it over with and get out of jail."
Dawson has since reunited with her daughter's father and said the ordeal has brought her family closer together.
"I'm just glad my little girl is here smiling and healthy and his (Bynum's) lies will now be exposed and he won't get to be released early," she said. "I'm just thankful for the miracle God handed down to my family."