MOULTON, Ala. (WHNT) - A verdict in a case that's generated a lot of interest. Former Moulton police officer Mitchell Breland was found not guilty of child abuse. Breland had been accused of whipping his two daughters with a belt and leaving bruises on their legs and back. Prosecutors called that child abuse, but the jury disagreed.
Mitchell Breland told the court he was just trying to be a good parent when he spanked his two daughters for stealing and smoking cigarettes. They were 7 years old at the time. Breland never denied he had used a belt to administer the punishment. But hours later, bruises appeared on the girl's legs and back and their mother took them to the hospital. It was medical personnel who notified authorities.
Breland was arrested and charged with two counts of child abuse. But Friday, the jury hearing his case found him not guilty on both counts, in essence ruling the punishment was not criminally excessive.
Defense attorney Brian White told WHNT News 19, "This is a situation where the jury's decided that the law allows you to punish your children physically and they decided that what he did was not a criminal act. It came within that privledge, if you will, that the law allows parents."
"I had stated from the beginning that I was not guilty of any crime," Breland said after hearing the verdict. "Of course, I was nervous about how a jury would see everything but the jury looked at the evidence and agreed with me, I was not guilty of any crime. I feel vindicated."
It's that sense of vindication that seemed to bother prosecutors the most. District Attorney Errek Jett told WHNT News 19 that of course he's disappointed with the verdict. But he said he still believes in his heart that the punishment metted out to those two young girls was beyond excessive.
Breland was fired from his job as a Moulton police officer after formal charges were levied against him. He says he plans to resume a career in law enforcement.