A 33-year-old woman Thursday was convicted Thursday — for a second time — of drowning her 2-month-old daughter in a bathtub in Santa Ana.
An Orange County Superior Court jury, which began deliberating last Thursday, found Lucero Carrera guilty of first-degree murder and child assault causing death in the June 29, 2012, drowning of Kimberly Gutierrez.
Since Carrera pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, the trial will now enter a sanity phase, which is scheduled to begin on Monday. Jurors will be asked to determine if her mental health issues at the time prevented her from understanding what she was doing was right or wrong.
If jurors determine she was legally insane at the time, Carrera could be sent to a state mental health facility indefinitely until she can prove her sanity has been restored. If not, she could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
The burden of proof in the sanity phase is lower than the guilty portion of the trial. Instead of the reasonable doubt standard, jurors will be asked to consider whether the defense has proven the defendant was insane by a preponderance of the evidence.
Carrera was convicted in January 2016 of drowning her infant daughter in a whirlpool bath in a trailer park at 518 S. Sullivan St. She was sentenced in March 2015 to 25 years to life in prison.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal, however, overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial in June of last year. The justices ruled jurors should have been given an instruction to consider the defendant’s “mental impairment” in the guilt phase of the trial.
The appellate justices ruled that the trial judge did not err in not giving the instruction, but said a defense attorney should have requested it. The justices noted that a juror in the first trial sent a note to the judge asking if the panel should consider Carrera’s state of mind when determining her guilt.
The jurors should have been given an instruction that they could consider “evidence of Carrera’s mental impairment to determine whether she had actually formed the specific intent required for premeditated murder,” according to the ruling.
Carrera was born in Mexico and came to the United States as a toddler, but was sent back to Mexico when she was 7 because she was “unstable,” the defendant’s attorney in the first trial said. Carrera returned to the United States when she was a teenager, and at 15 years old, was hospitalized for a suicide attempt, her first attorney said.
Experts in the first trial said the defendant alternates between manic and passive phases and has a schizo-affective disorder, with one expert concluding she suffered from “altruistic filicide,” which led her to kill her daughter.
Carrera appeared “catatonic” when police and paramedics arrived following the drowning, according to trial testimony. She had swallowed a bottle of Seroquel pills in a suicide attempt, according to the testimony.
The prosecutor in the first trial argued the defendant would sometimes fake her mental illness symptoms to get out of trouble.