Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A jury found Monday that a bipolar Santa Ana woman was legally sane when she drowned her 2-month-old daughter in a bathtub.

Lucero Carrera, 30, faces 25 years to life in prison, with sentencing scheduled for March 27.

Jurors began deliberating last Tuesday afternoon and signaled to Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals on Thursday that they were deadlocked 11-1.

In an effort to help break the jury’s deadlock, Goethals had the prosecutor and defense attorney deliver additional arguments in the sanity phase of the trial.

Carrera was convicted last month of first-degree murder and child assault causing death for drowning 2-month-old Kimberly Gutierrez in a whirlpool bath in a trailer park at 518 S. Sullivan St. on June 29, 2012.

If the jury had found Carrera was insane at the time of the killing, she could have been sent to a state mental institution for as long as a prison sentence would be, or be treated as an outpatient.

For jurors to find Carrera insane, they had to believe she did not understand the difference between right or wrong or couldn’t differentiate between reality and fantasy.

The burden of proof — which is “more likely than not,” instead of the “reasonable doubt” standard in criminal cases — is on the defense.

Carrera was born in Mexico and was, at a young age, “witness to violence between her mother and father,” defense attorney Kira Rubin said.

Carrera came to the United States as a toddler, but was sent back to Mexico when she was 7 because she was “unstable,” Rubin said. She returned to the U.S. when she was a teenager and at 15 years old was first hospitalized for a suicide attempt, her attorney said.

Carrera would alternate between manic and passive phases. For instance, she found herself hospitalized following an incident of promiscuously in which she had sex with gang members in a laundry business, Rubin said.

Experts say she has a schizo-affective disorder, and she was prescribed Seroquel during her pregnancy, according to Rubin, who said one expert believes Carrera suffered from “altruistic filicide,” leading her to kill her child.

“In her opinion, Ms. Carrera felt morally compelled to stop her daughter’s suffering,” Rubin said.

Carrera appeared “catatonic” when police and paramedics began investigating the death of her daughter, Rubin said. She had swallowed a bottle of Seroquel pills in a suicide attempt, according to Rubin.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson said there’s no dispute that Carrera is bipolar, but he told jurors that she was exaggerating her symptoms to avoid prosecution, a concept known as “malingering.”

Mendelson said Carrera used her illness as a “Get Out of Jail Free Card.”

Carrera took about 30 Seroquel pills before she filled up the bathtub and plunged her daughter into the water, Mendelson said.

Carrera was visiting relatives in Las Vegas in late 2010 when she met Kimberly’s father, Enrique Gutierrez, the prosecutor said. The two lived together for several months until Carrera swung back to a depressive state and returned to Santa Ana to stay with her mother, he said.

Carrera stopped taking her prescribed Seroquel when her daughter was born, Mendelson said.

— City News Service

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