A mistrial was declared Thursday when jurors could not reach a verdict on if a woman was insane when she drowned her 2-month-old daughter in a bath in Santa Ana six years ago.
Jurors deadlocked 7 for insane and 5 for sane in the sanity phase of the trial of Lucero Carrera, 33. The same jurors convicted her July 12 of first-degree murder and child assault causing death in the June 29, 2012, drowning of Kimberly Gutierrez.
But since Carrera pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity the jurors had to determine if she was legally insane at the time of the drowning, meaning she did not understand what she was doing was right or wrong. If she had been found insane she could have been sent to a state mental health facility indefinitely to have her sanity restored, or if it was determined she was now sane she could have been released from custody.
Otherwise, she faced a state prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Carrera’s attorney, Jennifer Nicolalde, argued that several experts testified that her client was not “faking or malingering” a mental illness.
She argued the defendant has a history of mental illness with five hospitalizations. She “suffered extreme traumatic childhood” experiences, Nicolalde said.
The defendant’s first suicide attempt was at 17, her attorney said. She suffered suicidal ideation since she was 10 or 11, Nicolalde said.
Carrera suffered from “auditory hallucinations” with voices telling her not to eat and to hurt herself, Nicolalde said.
The burden of proof in the sanity phase is lower than the guilty portion of the trial. Instead of the reasonable doubt standard, jurors were asked to consider whether the defense has proven the defendant was insane by a preponderance of the evidence.
Carrera was convicted in January 2015 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.
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.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: