Jury deliberations will begin Friday in the trial of a man suspected of beating his girlfriend’s toddler in 2011, leaving her with permanent brain damage.
During closing statements on Thursday, defense attorney Dante Gomez warned jurors to not have a “mob mentality” when deciding the case, while the prosecutor focused on the defendant’s “willful” actions.
“We’re here to decide whether there was an intentional act of child abuse,” Gomez said. “Now did Mr. Diaz snap and spank that child? Well, if so he is guilty of everything, right? No. Again, let’s not have mob mentality here.”
Gomez argued that there are two distinct crimes his client — 31-year-old Adan Diaz Orozco of Coachella — is charged with following his arrest after his girlfriend’s then-18-month-old daughter was hospitalized April 9, 2011, with injuries consistent with child abuse.
The first alleged crime relates to a severe head injury, while the second relates to the spanking, Gomez said. He pointed out that a crime is not committed when a parent uses “justifiable force” to discipline a child.
While Orozco admitted to spanking the child because she refused to eat, he says the toddler’s head trauma was an accident.
Gomez said during his opening statement that after waking the girl up from a nap, Orozco tried to feed her but she refused and threw the food on the ground.
Orozco then “tapped her on the butt, and she kept crying and crying and crying,” Gomez said. “And then, he at a certain point just said `enough’ and threw his arm back and made contact with her, not realizing she was there.”
That contact pushed the girl into a group of chairs next to the bed, according to the defense lawyer, who said Orozco immediately called the toddler’s mother, then picked her up with the toddler in the car.
The mother began doing CPR compressions on the girl, Gomez said, and when they arrived at the hospital, she jumped out of the car and unintentionally slammed the toddler’s head on the car door.
“This is a case of a rush to judgment, an accident and a biased investigation,” Gomez said.
Orozco and his girlfriend brought the girl to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, and she was later airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center. Sheriff’s officials said they were called to the Indio hospital by workers who suspected child abuse, leading to Orozco’s arrest.
“If you decide to harm a child because she is crying and screaming, and you specifically move a part of your body to her body to make her stop,” Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao said, “the law is going to hold you accountable for that action.”
Paixoa contended that Orozco’s actions were, in fact, willful.
“Even though he may not have intended the consequences, he intended every act that he did,” Paixao said pointing to evidence that Orozco grabbed, struck and hit the toddler prior to her being knocked unconscious from the head trauma. “This is not discipline of a child. You don’t get to do this to a child because she is crying and screaming.”
A portion of the toddler’s skull had to be removed when the girl was hospitalized, a move that is “not common except in cases of severe accidental trauma or abusive trauma,” Dr. Amy Young, a forensic pediatrician at Loma Linda University Medical Center, testified last week.
Testifying for the prosecution, Young said the toddler’s brain injuries could be likened to a car crash or two-story fall.
Orozco faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted due to a the child cruelty charges with a great bodily injury sentence enhancement.