California Supreme Court building. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
California Supreme Court building. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case against a former South Los Angeles resident convicted of the beating death of the 2 1/2-year-old foster daughter she was in the process of adopting.

Kiana Barker was found guilty in October 2013 of second-degree murder, assault on a child causing death and child abuse in the March 4, 2010, death of Viola Vanclief.

In a ruling in April, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal cited the “strength of the evidence against Barker” and concluded that “her trial was not fundamentally unfair.”

Barker, who testified in her own defense during her trial, maintained that she did not fatally beat the little girl.

“I did not administer those injuries … ,” Barker told jurors. “I don’t know how they were caused, but I know I didn’t cause them.”

She said she was “in love” with the toddler and had been working toward adopting her.

Barker testified that the girl’s mother — who she met through their church — had asked her twice to care for the toddler after she went into foster care, and said the mother had asked her to be Viola’s godmother.

Los Angeles firefighter Michael Pagliuso testified that the toddler didn’t show any signs of life at all after paramedics responded to a 911 call from Barker, and that Barker didn’t seem to be very worried.

He said parents are typically hysterical when something happens to a child and that he had seen “a lot different reactions than what I got out of the defendant.”

Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Ronald Harmon said the child appeared to be “lifeless” on the living room floor of Barker’s home, and the defendant’s “original answer was that the baby must have choked on apple juice.”

When asked how long the child had been down, Barker’s boyfriend responded 20 minutes and Barker countered it had only been five minutes, the fire captain said.

Dr. David Duarte, a surgeon who treated the girl, testified that the hospital team spent a lot of effort trying to save the child, who had bruising on her lower back, buttocks and thighs.

He said the girl’s injuries could not have been caused by being stuck between bed railings — something Barker testified had occurred a day before the child’s death.

Barker’s boyfriend, James Julian, who later became her husband, was charged as an accessory after the fact in the girl’s death. He pleaded no contest in December 2011 and was sentenced to three years in jail. He did not testify during Barker’s trial.

In sentencing Barker in February 2014 to 25 years to life in prison, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta called the facts of the case “tragic” and said Barker’s actions “call for the maximum term.”

— City News Service

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