The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (2020) s01e05 Episode Script

Improper Regard or Indifference

1 I just got my investigation for tonight.
What came in was a - Out-of-home abuse investigation, - Okay.
which means it's with one of our foster parents.
And in this case it involves a five-month-old baby.
The foster parent and her partner got into a physical altercation.
So it's a domestic violence.
Are you nervous at all? What are some of the threats? You can be assaulted.
It's never happened to me, but just the surprise of us showing up it takes them a while to get over that initial response to having somebody knock on their door and, you know, make an allegation.
I'm more concerned about getting in the door than anything else.
Let me see what this baby looks like.
I just wanna see a child that's breathing.
I wanna see a child that looks okay.
Like, I can't find out.
I can't I don't see the entrance to this place.
And this may be the projects.
Just a I have to interview them both, see who's in the home and assess the child, and then, we may remove the child.
Hello? Pardon the intrusion at this hour, ma'am.
Um, I'm with Children's Services.
And we got a call today regarding your home.
- What about my home? - So, what it is, we got a call tonight, to our child abuse hotline, and they made allegations of domestic violence.
- For For my home? - Yeah.
- So I need to see the child.
- I'm shaking, sorry.
- It's Okay.
- Can we come in? I'm not gonna get arrested or anything? No.
We're just gonna make sure that the baby's okay and that you're okay, - and then we'll be out of your way.
- Wow.
Let me explain to you what's going on.
- We got a call tonight - Okay.
and what they reported was, um, there's a history of you and your girlfriend, um, getting into physical altercations in the presence of your chi of the foster child.
That two weeks ago, you and the girlfriend were arguing outside, and that you ran over the girlfriend's foot.
Caller states that the child was in the car with the foster mother during the incident.
Uh, law enforcement was called but no arrests were made.
I haven't had my car in over since maybe like December or November.
- So you have no vehicle? - No.
Did that incident occur? Um, I just recently just got into it with the ex-girlfriend, so if if I know the time, I can go back to my text messages to show you some of the messages that she sent me - Okay.
- regarding another case.
So it sounds like this is the person that's calling in, as far as this this case.
Do you mind if I just see the baby? - Oh, that's a big ol' baby.
- Yeah, she'll be six months.
So let me ask you, what they reported was, you were arguing outside of the apartment with your girlfriend, it escalated, girlfriend started hitting the shopping bags out of your hands, foster mother dropped the car seat with the baby in it.
So, I just need to know - No.
- did an incident occur? No incident? Okay.
So what I'm gonna need to do is, 'cause they made an allegation the baby fell, I need for you to undress the baby.
Oh, my goodness.
What a happy baby.
So pretty, look at her.
Okay, perfect and then her buttocks, please.
So what I need to do now is just, uh, it's a welfare check.
So I need to just check out the house in the uh, - the refrigerator of your home for food.
- Okay.
So, I'm gonna open this if you don't mind? Okay.
And what k the baby on, what type of formula? - She's not on formula.
- Oh, lot's of food.
Oh, mama! I like all this! The formula.
I know, huh? No way.
Okay, I'm gonna make sure you have water.
I'm gonna look in this cabinet, if you don't mind.
Go ahead.
Can you do me a favor and turn on the stove? Okay, perfect.
Let me see the bathroom really quick.
Okay, um, I do apologize that we had to come at this hour.
But what matters here is that you cooperated, and that we came in and we didn't find what they reported.
- Right.
- For whatever reason, um decisions were made to do this.
The concern is I have is that, um, the person is gonna do this again, and you gotta stop all communications.
- I'm about to actually change my number.
- Yeah.
When you have allegations of physical abuse, you know, domestic violence, you have to look for the evidence, which is the house.
There's no drugs in the house, there was no booze.
Um, ample amount of food.
You know, you look at the care of the child, that's a robust child.
But bottom line, the child is safe.
Yeah, I feel good.
I don't feel that the child's in danger.
I don't feel like I had to remove a child.
Hello? Hello, may I speak with Patricia Clement, please? Yes, this is Patricia.
Hi, this is Mary Cenovich.
I'm an investigator, from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
- How are you this morning? - Yes.
Not good right now.
I'm so sorry.
Um What are you calling me about? I would like to, um, speak with you regarding your prior employment by LA County.
Why? Um, I have just a few, like, procedural questions, I would like Are you go are you gonna charge me with something? I have no way of knowing that.
I'm an investigator.
Why am I being is this regarding the little boy? Yes, yes it is.
I didn't have anything to do with that.
They're lying.
Oh, God.
They're the District Attorney's Office.
Oh, God.
Are you able to speak with me? I don't know.
I think I need to get an attorney, if you're gonna do this to me.
I had nothing to do with that.
I did my job.
Um, let me If are you able are you driving right now? No, I'm at home.
I-I lost my house.
I lost everything! Do you want the defendants to approach? Yes, absolutely.
All right, let me call the matter of the People vs.
Kevin Bom.
The defense filed a motion to dismiss.
What they basically are saying is there was not sufficient evidence to require them to stand trial.
We have a case here that is unprecedented.
If you look at what the People have filed, there is there's nothing that they've cited that remotely comes close to the facts that we have today, and there's a reason for that, Your Honor.
This is a case that just never should have been filed and it's a case that the court should dismiss.
The social workers are being charged with child endangerment resulting in death, and falsification of public records or documents.
But what kind of negligence applies to a social worker who is having problems? Is it sufficiently clear when they've crossed the line from negligence or mistake to gross negligence or recklessness? After Gabriel died, the case workers had no choice but to sit down with Internal Affairs investigators.
It was a condition of their employment.
They didn't wanna be there and the questioning was sometimes, you know, very adversarial.
Were there any other main issues that were, the sort of the focus for this family? He, um, was acting up in school.
He had was angry, was rude to his teacher.
Where is this information coming from, that he's so rude or acting out so much? Those things were told to me by mom.
- By mom.
- Yes.
Did you ever talk to his teacher or the school to get any additional information - about how he was doing at the school? - No, I did not.
Since the case had originally come in for physical abuse, had any verification been obtained that there were no new incidents of physical abuse or excessive discipline? It was never brought to my attention, by the social worker.
So, in terms of asking the specific questions, because you want your workers to ask the specific questions, did you ask your worker specifically if she had assessed whether or not there was any ongoing physical abuse? - I can't remember - Or physical discipline? the details of a lot of that conversation, but, um, no.
The tapes of these conversations were very tightly held.
So far, they have been kept out of the criminal trial, and there is a question about whether investigators relied on these statements to build their case or not.
We evaluated everyone who was involved with Gabriel's care, very closely, looking at the law to see if there were any violations of law, and based on that we filed the case.
My client had only contacts with the family from October 30th, 2012 to January 31st, 2013.
In that time, all injuries and evidence and testimony presented after that date, is irrelevant as to my client, Ms.
There were three subsequent supervisors, two subsequent social workers, one subsequent emergency response worker, two other mental health professionals, two law enforcement officers, and all these people are mandatory reporters, Your Honor, came into contact with the Fernandez family, subsequent to the work of Ms.
And no recommendations for detentions were made, no lingering injuries were noted, no arrests were made, and no removal orders made.
And with that, Your Honor, I'll submit.
Thank you.
Stefanie, she was a new recruit.
She didn't have a lot of experience.
But the basic allegations are saying that you, Stefanie, conducted a really shallow inquiry.
you didn't talk to the people who knew the situation best.
You didn't talk to Gabriel's grandparents who were really concerned about what was happening.
When you look at Stefanie's notes, you get the impression that this is a gullible individual who's easily manipulated by Pearl Fernandez.
You know, time after time, even when the explanations for, you know, these supposed accidental injuries are pretty thin, Stefanie accepts them far too quickly.
And in the end she categorizes them as accidents.
One of the things that social workers are supposed to do is maintain a body chart, and each time they see an injury they're supposed to make a note about it.
She started one with that initial bruise on Gabriel's butt, after the beating with a belt buckle.
But then all these other injuries never get marked.
The number of marks and bruises and injuries on this kid were all over the place.
And, if a body chart had been done, it would have been made crystal clear that this kid needed to get to the doctor.
The teacher calls and reports that he's come to school saying he's been shot with a BB gun.
The social worker walks away from that.
There's chunks of missing hair, a shaved head with scabs.
Those are not typical childhood injuries.
Everybody can look from the outside and say, "Oh, this should have been done.
" But all the allegations that were made were explained away.
The kids had done it, um, It happened in the neighborhood.
It was never, ever definitely defined that this was the result of what the parents had done.
If you look at Mr.
Bom's involvement in this, he had the file of Gabriel Fernandez for three months.
In those three months, he approved that there was a high risk level, he approved that there was general neglect, and he approved that there was improper corporal punishment and he did what his job was to do.
He ran the case up the flagpole for more intensive services.
Bom was no longer responsible for the case.
Kevin Bom was Stefanie's boss.
He was supposed to be there to sign off on every key decision she made, for instance when it comes to the decision about not sending him to medical care, you know, he's equally culpable for that.
The basic allegation is that Kevin Bom took a fairly hands-off approach to what she was doing.
He didn't make sure that she followed the department's policy to reach the appropriate witnesses, to make sure that the body chart was filled out, to make sure that Gabriel saw a doctor following some of these injuries.
You know, the reason he was there was to make sure that none of these things fell through the cracks, but they all did.
When Kevin Bom and Stefanie Rodriguez decide to close out their investigation, they make a decision to walk over to Greg Merritt's Family Preservation team.
He's a supervising social worker in the Palmdale office, and one of his workers is Pat Clement.
Pat Clement was well-established as a problematic worker.
She was generally perceived to be pretty rude and unprofessional, with clients and colleagues.
She was a nun for ten years and that's one of the things that really puzzles people now, because the woman they see is profane, loud.
So following Gabriel's death, Pat Clement has given different accounts of what happened and what culpability she might have.
If you look at the Internal Affairs interview, that looks very different from the conversation she has years later with the District Attorney investigator.
There were never any mentions, I gotta tell ya, of physical abuse.
That wasn't what the case was about.
The case was about neglect.
I was there, I did my job.
I gave the referrals.
I was sitting there with that family and it no one ever said anything.
No one.
Not the children, not the older children, no neighbors, no nothing said anything to me.
That there was any physical abuse going on.
And there were never any bruises.
I saw the black eye.
Um, I can't remember the explanation.
I saw that he had a um, a BB shot, and I was told that that was a kid in the apartment complex.
When you saw marks on him, did you ever complete a body chart? No.
Are you aware that there are body charts to mark? Mm-hmm.
Her assessment of Gabriel was just, like, flatly false.
This was a period when he was barely showing up to school, and she said that he had virtually perfect attendance.
She said that the family was improving and that the that Gabriel's risk was diminishing, not increasing.
That she spoke to Isauro and she deems him a very pleasant person.
This man presented himself as an upstanding, caring adult.
He had no criminal history.
He said all the right things and did all the right things and I had no there wasn't anything that was a red flag about him.
How many times did you have individual interviews with mother's male companion, the boyfriend? The first time I went there.
- The first time? - Yes.
After that, did you have any individual interviews with the boyfriend? No.
Pat backdated the end date for the case.
So she when she closed the case, that actually happened in April.
But she marked down a date in March so that she wouldn't be responsible for any visits to the family during that final month.
It was only a week after she learned that Gabriel had written these suicide notes, that she wrote down that there were no safety risks to Gabriel whatsoever and her recommendation was to close the case.
Okay, so based on your understanding of the family, at the time this referral was closed, did you feel that the family was at moderate risk? At high risk? At no risk? I would say they were at a moderate risk, from the information that I had.
Clearly, some information that I thought I had, I did not verify, which was my problem.
Other than Patricia's report to you about how the family is doing, were any other steps taken by you to verify any of that information? I don't recall any steps I've taken.
I'm not a horrible, terrible person and I did not hurt that child.
His mother and her boyfriend killed him.
I did not.
I had nothing to do with that.
I didn't miss anything.
And it it breaks my heart, it it rips me apart, when people in the community call him by his first name.
They did not know that child.
It's, uh, excuse me very much, but why don't you crucify the person that did this to him? I don't have any control over what goes on in that family, because a social worker has no control over what goes on in families.
My client supervised over 180 children and he spent his entire life trying to prevent what occurred on that day.
These these social workers really aren't villains, they're really unsung heroes in this case.
What I saw, I think certainly indicated that they shouldn't be with… the Department of Children and Family Services again, but in terms of whether there was a criminal act that occurred, I'm just not in the position to comment on that.
There are affirmative things that they did to keep that kid in an abusive environment and it was, quite frankly, foreseeable that kid was going to die.
The DCFS has had all kinds of child deaths in the past that have never been the subject of criminal prosecution.
And it's easy to find scapegoats.
The public is clamoring for justice to be done.
I'm really angry.
I'm really angry.
They should have done their job.
They had a job and their job was to save a little boy.
I've always wondered how many kids under their care were overlooked.
How many kids besides Gabriel, did they actually leave in an abusive home and did not do their job.
And we will never know, because they're not gonna come out and say it.
Unfortunately, Gabriel, my cousin had to die and suffer to make this, um make it a known case that, you know, the social workers, the DCFS it has to change.
Following consideration of the overall evidence presented, this court concludes that for purposes of the requisite burden of proof required, that there does exist a strong suspicion that the defendants' overall conduct does support the charges pending against them.
From the overall evidence presented, there is a strong suspicion that said conduct was reckless and or criminally negligent.
The defendants' actions and/or inactions, similarly demonstrated an improper regard for human life, or indifference to the consequences.
As such the defendants' motions to dismiss are hereby denied.
That is the court's ruling.
Alright, thank you all.
- Thank you, Your Honor.
- You're welcome.
All four of them really understood thqt things were becoming even more serious.
Nevertheless, they figured there's one more thing we can do.
We can go to the Appeals Court and ask them to reconsider Lomeli's decision about sending this forward to trial.
This appeal is really one of their last chances to avoid facing the jury.
And now it's just a waiting game to see what happens.
And everybody's in limbo.
The judge said that the actions represented an improper regard for human life.
How do you respond to that? I don't believe that at all, that's his opinion.
Uh, I have 24 years uh, working with children, and I have always been a person who has regarded human life.
What the Judge said was, "there was failure here at every level.
" Well, at every level means there is failure here at a systemic level.
Uh, and that begs the question, "Why are there only for social workers being tried?" Emily Putnam-Hornstein, I am an associate professor in the School of Social Work at USC and director of the Children's Data Network.
What was your impression of the Gabriel Fernandez case? I struggle with the Gabriel case.
It's absolutely heartbreaking, um, as are, you know, you know, other child deaths, but it's hard to understand some of the the decisions that were made.
Most of my research has focused on using administrative records to better understand maltreated children, and children who are involved with our child protection system.
There is a broad body of literature that would suggest that humans are not particularly good crystal balls.
Instead, what we're saying is, let's train an algorithm to identify which of those children fit a profile where the long-arc risk would suggest future system involvement.
People are using automated algorithms everywhere, in all parts of life.
Most people are familiar with it in their Facebook news feed, how it ranks which of your friends' posts you might find most interesting, or on their Google Maps when they're driving and it sends them on some weird route that the algorithm has decided is awesome.
But people don't realize that they're also being used in all sorts of high-stakes human decision making.
I'm Marc Cherna, The director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.
In the 90s, in Allegheny County, there were a number of high-profile deaths.
The last director was, basically, run out of town.
There were a lot of hearings, a lot of demonstrations.
And we were looked at as a national disgrace.
The problem that Allegheny County was looking to solve was that they were fielding significant volumes of calls to their child protection hotline, and they were trying to figure out whether they could use data, to better understand which calls they should screen in and investigate, and which calls they could safely screen out and not investigate.
We actually have around six or seven million children who are reported for alleged abuse or neglect every single year in the US.
And, historically, the way that we have made some of our screening decisions, are just based on, kind of, gut assessments.
Predictive risk modeling is saying, "No, let's take a more systematic and empirical approach to this.
" - The worker gets the call.
- CYF Intake, may I help you? The worker looks up the case to see what records we have, and get the history of that.
Do the children have any special needs? And they will then press a button and that will give them the Allegheny Family Screening tool.
The Allegheny Family Screening tool uses a statistical technique called data mining, to look at historical patterns in the data, and use those historical patterns when there's a new case, to try to make a prediction about what might happen in the current case of a child or family.
Well, there's a hundred or so different factors that are looked at.
Some basic examples are child welfare history, parents' history, certainly, drug use and addiction, certainly, mental illness, jail and convictions, and especially if there are assaults and things like that.
It's searching all of the data, it's pulling that in, and then the algorithm is applied.
They will see a number from one to 20.
It's kind of a thermometer in terms of what is high risk, medium risk, low-risk, in terms of that call.
I'm not sitting here and telling you we can predict who's going to go on to be abused and neglected.
We know that there is bias in our system, we know that there are differences in surveillance.
What we are doing here, is we are trying to predict future system involvement.
I have no idea how would a model have classified Gabriel.
We know that the risk assessment tool that was filled out by workers, was already indicating that he was very high risk, but all of the data that I have worked with and have seen, would suggest that these algorithms are unambiguously better than human judgment alone and are superior to tools that are currently being used.
But I've definitely heard from critics who I truly do respect that, ultimately, what we're doing is creating the equivalent of a nuclear weapon, that can be used by the field at large.
Poor and minority communities are over-represented - in data collected by counties.
- Mm-hmm.
So if the data is already biased against African Americans and other communities, how do you create an analytics tool that doesn't make the problem worse? So, that is a very real and legitimate concern.
For sure, there is bias in our systems.
Child abuse, as seen by us in our data, is not a function of actual child abuse, it's a function of who gets reported.
We're very sensitive to that and we are looking at our data ongoing, in terms of seeing, is this proportion growing or being reduced? And we have not found, in effect, a disproportionality, so far with this.
In Allegheny County, this system is owned by the public, but in a lot of places, these algorithms are being run by private companies.
Is there a danger in these systems being outsourced to private companies? It's incredibly important that these not be proprietary algorithms or models.
I think they are built from data that belongs to the public agencies that are serving these clients, in our community.
I do feel that's a kind of a fight for this technology right now by people who wanna use it for their purposes, which is not always for the public good.
It's like a black box.
They have no way to figure out how they're actually deciding a level of care that has a huge impact on an individual.
Here, it's working.
Here, we are comfortable with what we're doing.
Our ethical report is that it's unethical not to try to keep kids safe if you have tools to do that.
The software is ready.
They built it, they're ready to do it, they're advocating for it and it sure would save a lot of money, right? And so we are coming up really fast on these very important questions that we need to address, because, otherwise, we're all gonna be answering to a machine, and we're not gonna know how it made its decisions, and we're not gonna be able to hold it accountable.
What I'm frustrated by is the comfort so many have with criticizing the child protection system.
But anytime a child welfare agency attempts to innovate, that quickly gets shut down because people are more fearful of the new thing than they are of business as usual.
Today, possibly an even more intense day, as the two children took the stand who witnessed the abuse, Gabriel's older brother and older sister.
They were just 11 and 12 at the time of the abuse.
The first person on the stand was Gabriel's brother, Ezequiel.
Details today about how an 8-year-old Palmdale boy was killed from someone who says he saw it happen, his brother.
No cameras allowed in the court today, as the older brother of Gabriel Fernandez took the stand.
He's now 16 and was identified only as Ezequiel.
should be a lot quicker.
Okay, good.
So you're gonna have Deputy McCarthy wrap it up with him? - And then you're gonna have the children? - Just the two children - Who's first? - Uh, Ezequiel.
We're gonna have the jury's probably close to being here, let's take a break and then, uh, we'll start.
All right? Very good.
Ezequiel is, uh, Gabriel's older brother.
Virginia is Gabriel's older sister.
Uh, they were the two children who were living with Gabriel at the time, with both defendants, who also witnessed the last beating on, um at the end of Gabriel's life.
Both were called to testify during the trial.
I'm a retired professor and associate dean, also retired psychotherapist.
In my psychotherapy practice, that I had for 40 years, I saw and treated many survivors of sexual abuse and child abuse.
We showed you some of the videos of… Ezequiel and Virginia being questioned by the detectives.
What was your impression of that? What I saw, in both cases was, you know, the initial attempt to hold up the facade, and then the gradualunburdening, you know, and crumbling of that, to reveal two frightened children.
Can you tell me what a truth is? Can you define that word truth? It means that you're telling the real thing, and not the thing that you don't wanna say.
What about a lie? What does a lie mean? A lie means that you're not telling the truth and you're saying another thing that's not the word that you want to say.
The experience of witnessing Gabriel's abuse, and of having to lie about it, and of their own fears of their parents, it's just an enormous burden.
When's the first time that you saw something really bad at home happen to Gabriel? Um, I've seen him pick Gabriel up and choke him.
Okay, so is Gabriel standing up? - Yeah.
- And Tony picks him up how? Like You can stand up and show me, that's fine.
He would pick him up like, he'd have him right here and then he'd have him up there - 'cause he was tall, so - Okay, so he put him against the wall? - Yeah.
- And would he hold his hand against his neck? - Yeah.
- One hand or two? One.
- One hand? - Yeah.
- And would him pick him up off his feet? - Yeah.
Like how high off his feet? I think, like, his feet would be, like, up here.
- His feet would be up there? - Yeah.
Gabriel used to cl clean the kitty litter.
- Okay.
- And Gabriel used to say he was done, so my dad would go check and the whole kitty litter was peed on.
Tony would say, "Pick it up right, or I'll make you eat it.
" Mm-hmm.
And what did Gabriel do? When Gabriel didn't pick when Gabriel didn't pick it up right, he said, "Get in this corner and eat it.
" Really? Did he eat it? He had to.
None of us knows how to really think about that.
That you could do this to a child.
Your child.
Or any child.
One of the most moving days of the trial, was when Ezequiel and Virginia came into the courtroom.
There were no cameras allowed in the courtroom, because they're minors, but we did get the transcripts of what happened.
This is prosecutor Jon Hatami interviewing Ezequiel, Gabriel's older brother.
"Do you remember where that box was at? In my parents' room.
And do you remember if Gabriel would be in that box a lot? Yes.
" Exhibit number seven, they brought in the box into the courtroom, and one thing that was also memorable about the box or what stuck in my mind, is that it had all these little tickers of tape on it to mark where his bodily fluids were.
"So, I noticed you had two, two beds in your room, right? Yes.
But Gabriel still stayed in that box most of the time.
He slept in that box.
Even sometimes during the day? Yes.
" And then again later on.
"Do you remember how they put him in there? They put him in with handcuffs.
Were the handcuffs, were they on him, or were they on the outside? On the outside.
So, the two little metal handles? Yes.
Did they do anything to keep him talking or from saying things? They wrapped a bandana around his mouth.
I'm sorry, they wrapped a what? A bandana.
Did they put anything in his mouth? Sometimes a sock.
How did Gabriel go to the bathroom? Inside the box.
Was Gabriel ever made to clean up? Yes.
Did the defendant make him clean it up sometimes? Yes.
Would the defendant, kind of, hide him in there sometimes? Yes.
Who was he hiding him from, do you remember? Social workers, when they would come over.
So sometimes when social workers came over, the defendant would put him in there and kind of hide him, gag him? Both him and my mom.
Both your mom and the defendant? Yes.
Was Gabriel hungry? Yes.
You tried to give him a banana? Yes.
Was Gabriel hungry a lot of times? Yes.
Did you try to give him the banana when he was in the box? Yes.
So even though the handcuffs were on the box, were you able to get a bit of space in there to squeeze in the banana? Yes.
" I knew the case was a really serious case of child abuse, but it really wasn't until I got all of the evidence, that I realized how egregious the case was.
Especially, hearing the testimony of Ezequiel and Virginia.
I think then it probably hit me more.
"How were Gabriel's teeth knocked out? With a bat.
My mom hit him with the bottom side of the bat in the teeth, and, you know, they got knocked out.
Was he crying? Yes.
Was he on the ground? Yes.
Did they take him to the doctor or the dentist? No.
Ever? No.
Ezequiel, what's that? Pepper spray.
Whose was that? My mom's boyfriend.
So the defendant? Yes.
One of the things for being a security guard? Yes.
Did he ever do anything with that, that you remember? Yes.
Can you tell the jury what you remember? Uh, I remember them both, my mom and her boyfriend, putting Gabriel inside the bathtub and my mom's boyfriend spraying him in the face with pepper spray.
What did Gabriel do? He started crying and trying to get out of the restroom.
Was he able to get out? No, they had locked the door.
Did they ever call him gay? Yes.
Mom or the boyfriend or both? Both.
Did the boyfriend call him gay a lot? Yes.
So sometimes the defendant would put makeup on his bruises.
Sometimes the defendant would put Gabriel in a cold bath to help get bruises to go away.
Was Gabriel cold? Yes.
Was he ever put anywhere after the cold bath? Inside the Box.
" Hearing about from the children, strikes me to the core.
That really helps parse out what exactly took place, in that apartment.
"Okay, in your own words, the best that you can, can you tell the jury what you remember happening that night? I just came home from playing outside and I walked to the house, and I see my mom, Virginia and Gabriel inside Virginia's room.
And then they were arguing about something.
I think I remember that my mom got mad because Gabriel was playing with Virginia, with the toys, and then she got mad, and started hitting him in the face.
She dragged him into a room, and then that's when my mom's boyfriend went to the room and they closed the door.
And then I was hearing screaming and a lot of banging.
And then my mom came out, I was scared.
And, um, she told me to tell the police or the paramedics that me and Gabriel were playing, and that he hit his head and that's it.
" Gabriel's sister then goes on the stand.
"I was sitting on the edge of the bed and my mother's boyfriend was punching him.
Was there a point where he didn't get back up? He knocked the air out of him, and he fell over and he didn't get back up.
Nothing further.
So they picked him up.
Nothing further, Your Honor.
Are you finished? They threw him in the shower, and he kept on yelling at him to wake up, and when he didn't wake up, my mother decided to call the police.
And she told me to grab a rag, and we cleaned up all the blood that was on the floor.
Did you say nothing further? Nothing further.
" We'll never know, really what Gabriel went through.
I don't know how you I don't think we'll know.
I didn't see any emotions from Isauro Aguirre.
He sat there stoic and he stared completely forward.
I didn't see a single tear drop when Virginia testified, about the amount of blood, about the kicking and the punching.
I think that during that time there everybody in the courtroom was emotional and he sat there.
Um I don't know how a reasonable person can sit there and not feel anything, but apparently he was able to do that, so.
Ezequiel and Virginia seem to have now found some degree of safe harbor in their uncle.
What does that stable home mean for them and their future? That's everything.
I mean, we all need that.
I mean, I'm so glad that they have him.
You have to have that to be able to resolve any of the rest of it.
If you don't have that you can't.
But now having a kind of holding environment that is benign, and trustworthy, it means everything.
And I hope that they will be able to recover.
You know, I think they can, but it will be a long process.
I mean, these are terrifying experiences.
And to feel in any way implicated also, it's just very tough.
One of the most important aspects in recovering from trauma, that's abuse trauma, is moving it outside of yourself.
That is, it's not something about you, it's not something you did, it's something that happened to you.
And I think that shift is the most important kind of juncture toward healing.
I know I did something to Gabriel.
What did you do to Gabriel? I never went to go see him or tell him I was sorry.
To tell him you were sorry? Why were you gonna tell him that? Because because every time we would play together, I would always tell him that he can't play with me.
Why? Why couldn't he play with you? Because every time he wanted to play with me, I was with my friends.
And so that's what you did bad to him? Because you didn't wanna play with him? He always stayed in the dark with no one.
He stayed in the dark where? Inside my mom's room.
I'm gonna tell you this, Because you're gonna talk, you're gonna talk to all kinds of people.
You already have.
Would you say you've already had to talk to a bunch of people in two weeks, right? You you're gonna be talking to more people, okay? But this is something the reason this is what I'm saying, eye-to-eye with you, is so important, is I'm the policeman, who's investigating the whole case.
I'm the guy in charge.
Okay? From the guy in charge, I'm telling you, none of this was your fault.
None of it.
- Do you believe me? - Yeah.
I want you to believe me.
That's the guy in charge.
So you can hear from a lot of different people about this and that and the other thing.
But when you go to bed at night, I want you to try to remember, the head guy told me, it's not my fault.
Okay? 'Cause it's not.
Nothing that happened and nothing that you were told to do, nothing that they made you do, is your fault.
And I want you to believe that.
Okay? You're a good you're a good guy.
All right.
And we're gonna work through this.
All right? Okay.
Any questions? - No - Okay.
I think it's dinnertime.
What do you think? Okay, come on.
Every age Has its turn Every branch of the tree Has to learn Learn to grow Find its way Make the best of this Short-lived stay Take this seed Take this spade Take this dream of a better day Take this mind Take this pen Take this dream of a better land Take your time Build a home Build a place where we all Can belong
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