The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (2020) s01e06 Episode Script

Gabriel's Voice

1 The social workers had a chance.
The deputies had a chance.
The school officials had a chance.
The counselors had a chance.
Now it's to you, the People.
And I got one question to ask you about this case.
What are you gonna do? What are you gonna do? Gabriel's case was so horrific.
I mean, when the details came out of how this poor child was tortured and all of these people knew, and repeated contacts were made with the department, I think it shook the county to the core.
Gabriel's case definitely had an impact on LA County law enforcement, all the agencies that are involved in child abuse.
I mean, his name is, you know, a household word, and it started the, you know, Blue Ribbon Commission.
The Blue Ribbon Commission had some of the highest power in child welfare officials in the country on it.
I have never seen such a deep examination of what's wrong with our system and how to make it right, as I have in the aftermath of Gabriel's death.
I mean no offense to any of you, but when I talked to folks saying I was gonna come down here and present to the Blue Ribbon Commission, some folks rolled their eyes and said, "Is it just another commission?" And I said, "No, I don't think it is.
" We wanted to hear from every concerned member of the community.
We wanted to hear from all the relevant county departments, mental health, public health, education, everyone who touched the system in a significant way.
You know, the motto ought to be, "No dead kids on my watch.
" It's difficult when your integrity is questioned.
The very people we serve were sitting outside with signs saying, "Fire the workers," "Do your job," and we want to do that.
The single biggest issue that the commission felt that the county was challenged with was that departments that should be working together were not.
The Department of Children and Family Services was often isolated as the agency responsible for child safety, and the Sheriff's, Health Department, Mental Health, Public Health, were not seen as having responsibility.
I believe that the child welfare system is a system for poor children.
The social workers are overworked, in the sense that it's not just the number of their caseload.
It's the complexity of the individual cases.
They're only expected to deal with one piece of it, and dealing with that one piece, oftentimes, is not enough.
It wasn't enough to save Gabriel.
One set of recommendations was related to the sharing of information between law enforcement and child protection.
We felt that without that, children would continue to be harmed.
It's really essential because a lot of the tragedies and mistakes and missteps that take place are that somebody saw something, but that message did not get passed on to a broad enough group of entities who could step in and take the child out of harm's way.
The present state of the child welfare system is in crisis.
This commission urges the Board of Supervisors to acknowledge this state of emergency.
We tried to get the system to move as one for the well-being of children, and from that thought came a suggestion to adopt an Office of Child Protection.
The idea of the Office of Child Protection was to say that there's a single entity that is responsible for children's issues and for setting those priorities.
One of the recommendations was to have overarching authority over the entire child protection system to the extent of actually, controlling resources and personnel.
Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors did create the Office of Child Protection without the authority that the Blue Ribbon Commission recommended.
But I thought if they created this office, it would serve mostly as a facilitator, uh, and that's exactly what we do.
We're charged with helping to implement recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission as appropriate.
I took over as the executive director in January 2016, and I think in the two-and-a-half-plus years that we have essentially been in operation, I think we've helped move the ball.
But the problems that contributed to Gabriel's death haven't been fixed.
We're talking about a large county, so, moving this battleship, you know, takes a little bit of time.
Um, and so you pray that while you're in this period of reform, something bad doesn't happen.
In just hours, jurors will begin deliberating the case of a Palmdale man charged with the beating death of his girlfriend's son.
Prosecution having their closing arguments this morning.
The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for Aguirre.
The way this trial works is, initially, you'll get a verdict on whether or not he's guilty or not guilty, and then there will be a penalty phase to determine whether or not he will get the death penalty.
That'll be the time when we actually get them both together in the room, and they'll be sentenced together.
While the evidence presented shows that Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez committed unspeakable acts of abuse against Gabriel over a period of time, it was the trauma caused as a result of the beating on May 22nd, 2013 that killed Gabriel.
Isauro confessed to Detective Uribe.
Pearl informed Isauro that Gabriel had asked her to leave him.
Angry over the fact that Gabriel would interfere with his relationship with Pearl, Isauro confronted Gabriel, who denied saying it.
When Gabriel twice called Pearl a liar in Isauro's presence, Isauro exploded into a rage of anger, and, together with Pearl, struck Gabriel with his hands and fists to the head and body.
Isauro described his level of anger at 20 on a scale of one to ten.
He told Detectives Uribe and Long he became so out of control with anger and rage that he saw red, he was hyperventilating, and he almost passed out.
He stated in his confession that he was completely out of control and he just couldn't stop himself from hitting Gabriel.
But note that he also told the detective that acting out of control, was no excuse for what he did.
No one is asking you not to hold Isauro accountable and responsible for his actions.
What we're asking that you do is come back with a verdict that serves the ends of justice, a finding that Isauro is guilty of murder in the second degree.
I don't know anyone that's a victim of child abuse.
Honestly, I've lived a pretty sheltered life, and I've really never been exposed to something like this before.
I've really never given this topic very much thought, until now.
I've only been on one other trial, and that was a civil trial.
Otherwise than that, this is the first trial I've ever been on.
And what a trial to get.
This case was something that hit home, because I'm a father of three, and I could never imagine putting my kids through what Gabriel was put through.
I just told myself I'm gonna go in with an open mind.
I'm gonna forget about what I heard, and just hear what evidence is gonna be presented, and just go by that.
That's the beauty of the system.
It's a jury of your peers.
And while I might not have, on the face of it, anything in common with Gabriel, we are just basically regular citizens.
We have equal weight in the eyes of the law.
But there is a sense of responsibility and gravity that the law is being put in your hands.
Someone is putting someone else's life in my hands, and that's a huge weight to carry.
The defense wants you to believe that the defendant was in a rage, and he was a 20 on a scale of one to ten, and completely lost control.
Because that is their theory, and that is their story, but it's just not consistent with the evidence.
When the defendant grabbed him by the neck, and brought him towards that wall, and punched him right in the face, that's one time.
And Gabriel's down.
And the defendant's standing over him.
And Gabriel's dying.
And he's helpless.
He's a child.
You can't do anything.
You can't do anything when you're helpless.
And he picks Gabriel back up and he calls him gay, and he hits him again.
And Gabriel's down.
And that's only two times.
And then Pearl gets in there.
And then when he's down, they kick him.
And they're hitting him, and he hits him 20 times.
In the body.
And he hits him ten times in the head.
Ten times.
And, Gabriel, he'll never know why.
He'll never know why that he was beaten to death.
He'll never know.
His last breath when he looked up and saw the defendant beating him, and saw his mom there.
He'll never know why.
And he'll never get a chance.
To live a normal life.
Justice for Gabriel.
Justice for Gabriel.
This is first-degree murder, and this is intentional murder by torture.
And it's beyond all doubt.
All doubt.
She said that in that recording we just heard, and this also makes you realize this is why Pearl and Isauro wanted to remove him from the school he was enrolled in Everybody was talking back and forth about different things, about the doctors, the nurses, the teacher.
It was going around and around about it.
We didn't even vote.
The jury finished its first day of deliberations without a verdict.
The seven women and five men deliberated for just three and a half hours.
The jury will continue deliberations tomorrow morning.
Next day, it was pretty much down to business.
We had to decide if he was guilty of first-degree murder or second-degree murder and if the special circumstance of torture was true or not.
If we found Isauro Aguirre guilty of murder in the first degree and found that the special circumstance of torture was true, that would make him eligible for the death penalty.
And it's really not as clear-cut as people think it is, because we had, like, 50 page of instructions.
The defendant is guilty of first-degree murder if the people have proved that he acted willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation.
The defendant acted willfully if he intended to kill.
The defendant acted deliberately if he carefully weighed the considerations for and against his choice and knowing the consequences, decide to kill.
So, for first-degree murder, it had to be willful, deliberate and premeditated.
And obviously there was no doubt in my mind that he was guilty of first-degree murder.
But a couple people weren't convinced that it was premeditated.
Finally, we all got together, and we said, "Well, let's take a vote.
" So we took a vote, and it came up it was, uh, 11 to one.
Uh, pretty much I'm always the last one to say OK.
I got a master degree in civil engineering.
Most people jump to the conclusion.
My training tells me, "No, you shouldn't.
You should examine all the evidence presented to us.
" If this is a first-degree murder, this defendant has to have an intent to kill.
Did he intend to kill the poor child, or intend to torture him? It's the intent to torture.
He wants to teach that poor kid a lesson.
If that's the case, the first-degree murder won't stand.
Based on that, I'm not going to say he's guilty.
You don't starve someone.
You don't beat someone.
You don't hog-tie someone.
You don't handcuff someone, and not think that everything you're doing is not going to lead to you killing them.
They were basically killing him slowly, and that's one of the things that we tried to to tell the one juror that was holding out.
If he premeditated to kill, he has to, say, kill this child and bury it in the forest.
Nobody can find it.
If he intend to kill that boy, he he could do that a long, long time ago.
Time doesn't matter.
Like, he could have made the decision in one second, that, like, "I'm gonna do this.
I'm gonna go through with it.
I'm gonna kill him.
" It still would have been premeditated.
But he just wasn't convinced.
So anything's possible.
The jurors could, conceivably, come back with a "not guilty," although, based on what I've seen, I can't imagine how they would reach that conclusion.
I think it was, like, at 11:45, I got the word that there's a verdict.
There was a text.
It's very nerve-racking waiting for a verdict to come back.
You know, you go back in your mind and you think about, "Was there something else I could have done? Was there something I could have presented to the jury that would guarantee me a certain outcome?" I remember walking up to go over there, I I thought I was gonna, like my legs were gonna give up.
I didn't think I was gonna make it.
My heart was pounding so hard.
Move all the way down, 'cause we're gonna be sitting shoulder to shoulder.
OK, good afternoon.
Good afternoon.
We all know why we're here.
So we expect the utmost courtesy and respect for the court.
So whatever decisions that may be rendered, no running out of the courtroom.
No texting or causing any kind of disturbance once this process begins.
We are on the record in the matter of People vs.
 Isauro Aguirre.
All counsel are present.
The defendant as well.
I understand that the jury has reached a verdict.
We're going to invite the jury to join us at this time.
If you would, Mr.
All right, let the record reflect the jury has now joined us.
- Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
- Good afternoon, Judge.
I understand that there is a verdict that's been reached? - Yes.
- Who is the foreperson? - I am.
- All right.
- Is it correct a verdict's been reached? - Yes.
Hand the verdict forms over to my bailiff, please.
All right, Mr.
Clerk, if you will read the verdict onto the lectern, please.
The Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Department 107, People of the State of California vs.
Isauro Aguirre, we the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant Isauro Aguirre guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree.
We further find the allegation that said murder was committed intentionally and involved the infliction of torture, within the meaning of penal code section 190.
2, subsection A18, to be true, dated November 15, 2017, juror number five, foreperson.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is this your verdict? So say you once, so say you all? - Yes.
- Thank you.
When we finally delivered a guilty verdict, I think there was there was relief.
Someone's finally going to pay for this.
Someone's actually standing up for Gabriel.
A verdict like that, uh, to me, is just, you know, this this glaring statement by the community to that person.
You can't hide from us anymore.
You're guilty.
We stand in recess.
I'll never forget it.
As long as I live.
Never forget that feeling, never forget that verdict.
To all of our years, you know, it just all the work, it finally is, like I was like, "Thank God.
" 'Cause you don't want to let the family down.
I was so happy for Arnold.
He was so upset at what happened to Gabriel, he felt so guilty.
Also, just didn't believe in the system.
Not only because of what happened to Gabriel but because of things that happened to him.
And, you know, a lot of people who have been in custody, the system really hasn't been kind to them.
What happens next? They take a break.
Same jury.
Seven women, five men.
They now begin what is called the penalty phase.
That begins on November 27th.
What's determined in that is, uh, the defendant, Aguirre, will it be life or death? The jury must decide on that.
The penalty phase seemed a lot more tense and took a lot longer than the guilty verdict.
We've already said, "OK, he's done it.
" Now we're gonna determine whether or not he's deserving of the death penalty.
California has the largest death row in the United States.
There are 740 people currently on California's death row.
And Southern California is currently sentencing more people to death than any other part of the country.
In essence, the United States is the only Western democracy that still has the death penalty.
It continues to pose a significant moral dilemma for this country.
We are, in many respects, of two minds.
Because this is the country of great opportunity, of respect for humanity, and, at the same time, it's a country that's been highly punitive.
The better angels of our nature want to get rid of the death penalty.
Uh, they have not prevailed.
We are a country of mercy, and we are country of vengeance, and we live with both at the same time.
California has this system where it can't just be a murder, it has to be a murder with special circumstances.
Gruesome cases are really hard to decide.
And you're going to have jurors who believe that this person should not be killed.
Juries have a choice.
They have a choice between life without possibility of parole and the death penalty.
And when it gets down to a person who does not think a defendant should die, and jurors who think we have to kill this person in order to protect society, you have extraordinarily emotional debates.
The instructions were different.
The standards were different.
Now it just came down to personal beliefs and personal preferences.
The question seems to be posed automatically at this point whether or not Isauro Aguirre is a monster.
You hear that word a lot during the penalty phase.
And then the sort of character witnesses that are brought forward, come forward to talk about how, you know, he's not a monster.
This is where you get into a really interesting concept of justice, when people start talking about morality and good and evil.
Your Honor, the defense calls Ms.
Susan Weisbarth.
The defense brought up his work with the elderly and the disabled.
All right, Counsel.
- May I proceed, Your Honor? - Yes.
Thank you.
Um, good morning, Ms.
Good morning.
Weisbarth, directing your attention to the man whose back I'm touching, do you recognize him? I do.
How do you recognize him? Isauro worked for me.
Uh Where did he work for you at? In Woodland Hills at Woodland Park Retirement Hotel.
It has another name now.
What was Isauro's job at Woodland Park? Isauro was a caregiver and a driver.
We called him Shaggy.
That was a nickname for him? Yes, it was.
Uh, was it was the nickname a term of endearment? Uh, yes, it was.
He was quiet.
He was just a down-to-earth, nice person, always willing to help.
He was kind and caring, so when all this came up, it was, like, this has to be a mistake, it it can't be true.
Did you see him carrying out his duties? I saw him every day that we worked together.
And that was over a span of three years.
As a caregiver, if a lot of them wore briefs, that's a diaper, and if someone was wet or dirty, he would clean them.
The residents always wanted him to take care of them.
I mean, he was like a teddy bear, the residents adored him.
Um, so did the staff.
And what was Isauro's job at that time? He was the, uh, driver for Woodland Park Retirement Hotel.
One of the places we frequently went because of the weather in California to the Santa Monica Pier, and we would go there and have lunch.
And, um, on occasion, Isauro would suggest, could we take the scenic route back to the hotel, where the residents live, so that they could, you know, see different areas, not just see the freeway.
Compassion is the most important part.
If you don't have it, then, well, they couldn't work for me.
Um Knowing what you know, about the crime that he was found guilty of in this case, do you believe that there remains some goodness in Isauro that's worth saving? I saw him as a good person.
He worked for me, otherwise he couldn't have worked for me if he wasn't.
So, would it change your opinion to know that he admitted to, um, punching an eight-year-old boy ten times in the face? Would that change your opinion that he's good? No.
- Excuse me? - No.
So you're OK with a grown man punching an eight-year-old child ten times in the face? In your opinion, that person could still have good in them, correct? I'm not OK with what he did now.
You testify that now there's some good in him.
Right? I I yes, I did, because I know the type of person he was.
I'm caught between a rock and a hard place, in a sense.
So if you knew that the defendant punched an eight-year-old boy 20 times in the body, would that change your opinion about your belief that he's a good person, here today? I know what he did.
I've read it, I've heard it, I've seen it, but I think deep down there was good.
It's hard to wrap myself around all this.
I don't think we'll get the answers.
Because Shaggy is not talking.
What did Gabriel think during those last few seconds? "Does anybody love me? Does my mom love me? Why is this man who calls himself my stepfather doing this to me? Is anybody there to protect me? Where are my grandparents? Where is my teacher? Isn't anybody there to love me and hold me? I'm sorry.
I'll be a good boy.
" There is evil in this room right now.
And it's right over there.
It's right over there.
You know what Gabriel went through.
It is beyond all doubt cruel, inhumane, and evil conduct.
No human with a heart and soul could do that to an innocent little boy, and no human with any goodness in them, can do that to a helpless little child.
I would, like, stare at him every single day, trying to see if I can find some humanity in him, just any kind of emotion.
Just rolling his hands.
That's all he was doing.
And he would sit there not even wipe his eye or a tear or anything.
It infuriated me because he didn't show no kind of remorse.
Remorse would be a mitigating factor.
I mean, it was all so horrible.
It's like, you know Give us something Give us something.
Yeah, just a little bit just a little, tiny bit, you know? Yeah.
And we took another vote, and it was 11 to one.
And it was the same guy who wasn't convinced of first-degree murder, wasn't convinced of the death penalty.
Well, it appears the jury, early this morning was in sort of a deadlock.
They sent out a note and it says here, "If we cannot unanimously agree on a penalty, what is the outcome?" First of all, ladies and gentlemen, your inquiry is a little premature.
Uh, this phase of the trial, the penalty phase, took about two weeks to do.
You, uh, have only been deliberating for two hours.
And so it really is premature, so I'm gonna ask you to continue deliberating, if you will.
Thank you.
Under California law, for a death sentence to be imposed, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict, uh, saying that death is the appropriate punishment.
And that means one person can spare a defendant's life.
Emotion was running high in that jury room.
If everybody had got his way, we sentenced the defendant to death penalty in two hours, in my opinion.
Which I think is wrong.
I think we should, uh, give the defendant a chance to defend himself, and we have to think from his point of view.
It wasn't his kid.
He wasn't married to Pearl.
He could have just walked away and could have cleaned his hands of everything.
And would have been a free man that day, but he never did.
I would rather sentence the mother to the death penalty instead of him.
I felt the mother should take care of the kids, no matter what happen.
She's the mother.
The defendant is just the boyfriend of the mother.
We kept saying to him, "She's not on trial.
" And we already established that there was a co-conspiracy theory.
So it doesn't matter if you think she was the mastermind behind all this.
One isn't more guilty than the other.
They did this together.
He, like, thought deep down that Isauro was maybe a good guy.
The act he did to Gabriel, there's no excuse for that.
And it's evil.
But, is he really, really that evil a person? How do you define an evil person? It's hard.
There's no way this man can be spared his life, because he didn't spare Gabriel's life.
I never had any doubt in my mind that I wanted to sentence him to death.
I was never going to sway.
I was never gonna change my opinion on that, no matter what.
In these two days, the jury has deliberated for approximately six hours without reaching a verdict.
If the jury were to declare the judgment as null, then the prosecution will have the option to present the evidence to a new jury.
Also important, tomorrow morning at 10:00, here in Los Angeles court, the jury will continue deliberation.
Once we hit that bell, three rings for a decision, uh, we all just burst into tears.
There were no smiles, by any means.
There was no sense of gratification.
Uh, we are on the record in this matter of the People vs.
All 12 jurors are present.
All counsel and the defendant.
Juror number five, have you reached a verdict? Yes.
All right, Mr.
Clerk, if you would read the verdict.
In the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, Department 107, People of the State of California vs.
Isauro Aguirre, case number BA425180, we the jury in the above entitled action, having found the defendant Isauro Aguirre guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree, and having found the special circumstance to be true, fix the penalty at death.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is this your verdict? So say you one, so say you all? Yes.
Before the judge dismissed the jury, this message to him from the foreperson, off-camera.
We were plucked out of our everyday lives and brought together to serve on this case, and we came together to bring justice for Gabriel.
"Justice for Gabriel.
" Now, typically, we would hear from the prosecutors, or perhaps the defense as well.
But an unusual request by the judge.
He asked the attorneys not to speak about this, didn't want any public comments tainting any potential future jurors.
Reporting live downtown, I'm Phil Shuman, Fox 11 News.
We just had the decision from the jury on the death penalty for Isauro Aguirre.
Um, I think that's really changed the environment for everybody involved in the case.
Rumors started emerging pretty soon after that.
It's had an effect on Pearl, and she's possibly seeking a plea agreement that would allow her to avoid a death sentence.
Right up to the last minute, no one knew what Pearl was gonna say.
We didn't know if she was gonna come out there and she was gonna want a trial, and are we gonna sit here for another six months? Or if she was gonna turn around and and take a plea deal.
Miss, uh, Fernandez, the prosecution is gonna explain to you the your constitutional statutory rights, and then the specifics about your plea.
I ask that you listen very carefully.
To the extent that you do not understand something, make sure you consult with your attorneys, all right? We'll try to go slow on this.
Defendant Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, in case BA425180 to count one, a violation of California Penal Code Section 187, Subdivision A, the murder of Gabriel Fernandez, a serious and violent felony, how do you plead? Guilty.
- Excuse me? - Guilty.
Defendant Fernandez, you are being sent to state prison for the remainder of your natural life.
You will never be paroled.
You will never be released from prison.
Do you clearly understand and agree to this? Yes.
Do you admit or deny that count one, the murder of Gabriel Fernandez, was committed by you, willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation in the first degree? Yes.
Do you admit it? - Yes.
- She said yes.
Do you also admit or deny the special circumstance that the aforementioned murder of Gabriel Fernandez was intentional and involved the infliction of torture? Yes.
All right, the court will make a finding that the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and understandingly waived her constitutional and statutory rights, and that her plea was freely and voluntarily made with an understanding of the nature consequences thereof? Yes.
We stand and recess.
Thank you.
- Thank you, Your Honor.
- Thank you.
All right, uh, let me draw the matter of the People vs.
Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez.
And, first of all, turn to the prosecution.
Are there impact statements to be made? Yes, Your Honor.
You may proceed.
I'm here to talk about how Gabriel's murder has affected my life.
I feel strange even talking about me, because I'm living and he is dead.
Time has helped, but I can honestly say there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about Gabriel.
I carry around a lot of guilt.
I think about him most when I am alone with my thoughts on my way to work or trying to fall asleep.
I replay over and over again what happened and what I could have done differently, what I should have said, what I should have done.
My own school district thinks, since my testimony is over, that this is over and done.
But for me it will never go away.
This will always be a part of me and something I will think about until the day I die.
For the last five years, Gabriel has been number 28 in my classroom.
I don't assign number 28 to another student because I feel it's only his number now.
And it's a way for me to honor him in my classroom.
It almost makes it like he's still here.
I find comfort in believing he is now at peace.
He cannot be harmed anymore.
And I know that, unlike him, his abusers will never have peace.
They will have a lifetime of suffering to endure.
I know I'm not alone in hoping that they experience the same abuse in their lifetime and worse.
They are evil people for what they did, and despite how I feel, I know that if Gabriel had survived, he wouldn't have wanted his mom and Isauro to be punished for anything they did to him.
That's all.
- All right, - Your Honor, - may we have just a moment? - Yes.
Fernandez would like to make a brief statement.
She may.
Just keep your voice up so everybody can hear you, OK? - OK.
- All right.
I wanna say I'm sorry to my family for what I did.
I wanna say I'm sorry for this what happened.
I wish Gabriel was alive.
Every day, I wish that I made better choices.
I'm sorry to my children, and I want them to know that I love them.
And I hope one day they will forgive me.
And I hope one day they will come to their sense and come to me.
I wish Gabriel's I wish I could have saved Gabriel.
And I just want to say thank you and God bless everybody.
All right.
Uh, let me move on to the issue of sentencing.
Uh, as I stated, uh, next week, June 17th, it'll be 20 years that I've been on the bench.
I have imposed a lot of sentences in the course of those 20 years, and generally it is my practice not to comment on a lot of cases.
But, you know, I was privy to this case.
I sat through it.
I heard the evidence.
Uh, I was privy to the photographs, coroner's photographs, the extent of the injuries and what have you, and this almost demands that comment be made.
I it is unimaginable the pain that this child probably endured.
And, uh, from what I heard, Gabriel was a kind, loving individual, who just wanted to be loved.
And so uh, you know, you wanna say that the conduct was animalistic, but that would be wrong.
'Cause even animals know how to take care of their young.
You know, I can only wish I I really do, that you both, in the middle of the night, you wake up, and you think of the injuries that that you subjected this poor, young man this poor, seven-year-old, um, and that it tortures you.
I rarely say that.
It'll be a different type of torture, 'cause you won't be in pain physical pain.
But I'm not sure that you're capable of doing that.
Um, but that's my wish.
And I'm going to move to the issue of sentencing with respect to Pearl Sinthia Fernandez.
It is the judgment and sentence of this court that the defendant shall be sentenced to a term of life in prison in prison without the possibility of parole for the underlined murder charge coupled with the torture special circumstance allegation.
With respect to Mr.
Isauro Aguirre, Defendant Isauro Aguirre shall be put to death within the walls of the California State Prison at San Quentin in a manner and means prescribed by law, upon a date to be fixed by this court and a warrant of execution.
The defendant shall be transported to the California State Prison at San Quentin, for the death sentence shall be executed.
All right.
Thank you, all.
Please stand in recess.
Thank you.
Will the audience please remain seated Two weeks after Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez were sentenced, I got a phone call, from a deputy in Antelope Valley.
And she said the same thing happened again.
It was Wednesday at 12:15 in the afternoon when deputies responded to the Village Point apartment complex on Challenger Way in Lancaster, for a call of a little boy not breathing, the child's mother reportedly telling deputies he had fallen.
The little boy was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, and just 18 and a half hours later, ten-year-old Anthony was dead.
I was shocked.
Um I was shocked.
The child had severe head injuries and cigarette burns all over his body, and the newspaper says there had been a history of documented abuse.
It didn't make sense to me, in my head, that there could be another little boy like Gabriel.
You're thinking about it in your head, "How could this be true? This can't be true.
" Justice for Anthony! Earlier today in Palmdale, members of the community rallied outside the DCFS office, demanding change.
Five years after Gabriel died, I was devastated to read about Anthony Avalos's death.
Prosecutors say the couple withheld food from him, denied him access to the restroom, slammed him into furniture, and would encourage the other kids in the house to hurt him.
His case is being compared to the abuse and death of Gabriel Fernandez, who was also from the Antelope Valley.
How could it have happened again in the same location? The same, you know, boyfriend and mom dynamic.
The same, DCFS contact.
We just happened to be in Antelope Valley, two days before Anthony was killed, and went in and found the clinic closed, and realized that even though we'd already had a death up there, that the resources were not there for the next kid that was killed.
Despite all the publicity surrounding Gabriel's horrific murder, something prevented DCFS from saving a second little boy who was likely suffering just a few miles away.
DCFS was very quick to say, like, "This is not the same case, or not a similar case," but you couldn't help but draw parallels between the two.
Did homophobia lead to this little boy's death? Authorities say ten-year-old Anthony Avalos came out before he died last week, under suspicious circumstances.
It's the homophobia that you don't see, that doesn't play out on TV, that doesn't play out on the street that is alive and well in your own home.
Anthony's death seemed so preventable.
Officials were notified.
People noticed that Anthony was suffering.
It seemed to me that if our recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission had been fully implemented by this point, Anthony would be alive today.
You asked for our help and our thoughts and our time.
We've given you the best of all of these.
Who are we going to hold accountable for this? We have to figure out what is happening in LA County.
Ricardo Lara was one of the most active lawmakers seeking an independent audit of DCFS.
LA County fought him tooth and nail.
We finally have the results, and it's a blistering account of what's happened at DCFS.
According to the state auditor, current DCFS management had the benefit of many, many extremely well-considered proposals on what could improve the situation, but there was no reasonable process in place to implement those recommendations.
I'd been working for the county for a while and when there was no external pressure or scrutiny, it just became that much easier to bury problems without really addressing them.
Or to address them halfway or to let investigations or disciplinary proceedings or reform measures just sort of… evaporate quietly, and nobody would be the wiser.
It's very unlikely that anything lasting and significant will be accomplished in darkness.
You know, DCFS has totally declined to talk to us about Gabriel Fernandez's case or the Anthony Avalos case.
Why do you think that is? I I can't answer that question.
You know, there are those who think that, by not talking, that you can limit the bad publicity, whereas, I don't think that's true.
I think we're at this sort of existential moment for journalism particularly local journalism, because the cuts are getting really bad.
As there's less watchdogs, it's easier for people to do things in secret, for government to do things that you don't know about.
You know, we have only a few weeks left before the newspaper moves to El Segundo, so it's a totally different era, moving out of LA, moving into a kind of a new space and a new way of thinking.
It's been really painful for some people.
As there are just cuts and cuts and cuts at newspapers, no one is coming in, to step in to fill that void of local reporting, and I think that's a crisis, and the crisis could get worse in the coming years.
The Gabriel case is a good example of just how you need local reporting.
In the years since Gabriel died, we know by the county's own count that more than 150 children have died of abuse and neglect after receiving at least some DCFS involvement in their lives.
The most recent child to come to our attention is a four-year-old boy named Noah Cuatro.
A case worker went to a judge saying that this child was in imminent risk.
The judge agreed with her, issued a ruling the very next day saying that the boy should be removed.
DCFS never carried that order out, and within weeks, he died under very suspicious circumstances.
California Appeals Court has thrown out criminal charges against four social workers in the murder of an eight-year-old Palmdale boy.
Today, the state appeals court ruled the social workers were not required to control the abusers or to care for Gabriel and the charges should be dismissed.
Those of us who were working the case seem to have done what we could have done.
In my opinion, no crime was committed, and I did not commit a crime.
I think evil does reside in the heart of individuals.
And you do see evil when you're a child abuse doctor.
You also see anger and frustration and poverty, and "What am I gonna do?" And, "I'm gonna hit my kid because I'm frustrated.
" But I believe the ultimate evil in this world is knowing what's wrong, seeing what's wrong, and looking away.
It's in the looking away when you have a power to make the difference, that is true evil.
Scratch their face in a picture book Feet don't reach the bedroom floor Mother flying through the air Neighbor's tree needs me to climb This is what I am This is what I am Crayon sun hung on the fence Someone laughs at my shoes, oh Don't do it.
This is what I am This is what I am Finger pointing at the moon A little scared When the the thunder rolls Counting cars from my screen door Reaching out for a hand to hold This is what I am This is what I am This is what I am This is what I am This is what I am
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