A South Dakota judge ruled Tuesday that evidence of prior violence against children can be used in the trial of the man accused of killing the 2-year-old son of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls reports.
The murder trial of Joseph Patterson, 28, is scheduled to begin Oct. 1. Patterson, of Sioux Falls, has been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault in the October 2013 death of Tyrese Ruffin.
Ruffin died at a Sioux Falls hospital on Oct. 11, 2013, from injuries suffered during the alleged assault two days earlier.
Patterson has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
According to the Argus Leader, Judge Stuart Tiede ruled that the beatings of the children of an ex-girlfriend of Patterson's in 2012 are "substantially similar" in nature to the facts surrounding Ruffin's death.
KELO reports prosecutors will be able to use as evidence three past allegations against Patterson, starting with an incident in the summer of 2011. The station says in that incident, Patterson was accused of slapping a 3-year-old across the face when the child failed to follow the man's orders.
The same child was involved in the second incident about a year later, KELO says. In that case, Patterson allegedly spanked the child so hard for misbehaving in church that it reportedly caused swelling and bruising.
In the third instance, KELO says, the state alleged that Patterson stopped his car during a trip to Rapid City, South Dakota, in 2010, because a 3-year-old – a different child from the two previous accounts – was crying. The station says Patterson allegedly pulled the child out of the car and threw the toddler against the wheel of the vehicle.
Tiede also ruled Tuesday that a series of text messages exchanged between Patterson and Ruffin's mother in the days leading up to the alleged attack on the boy are admissible in the upcoming trial, the Argus Leader says.
However, alleged accounts of prior beatings of ex-girlfriends of Patterson's will not be introduced as evidence; nor will an account of an alleged attack on Ruffin's mother in June. In that case, Patterson is facing charges of aggravated assault and kidnapping.
In charges filed in October 2013, prosecutors say Tyrese Ruffin died after least four head injuries caused bleeding in the brain.
According to the Argus Leader, Patterson's attorneys maintain that Ruffin had choked on strawberry fruit snacks. The attorneys reportedly plan to call to the stand a medical expert, who is expected to testify that the boy's injuries are inconclusive as evidence of blunt force trauma.
Peterson has said that before Ruffin's death that he had only recently learned that he was the boy's father and saw him for the first time in the hospital shortly before his death.