The Lancaster County Attorney’s office charged and the District Court jury convicted Brandy with intentional child abuse resulting in death, a Class IB felony Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-105 (Cum. Supp. 2002). The jury deliberated for over 16 hours, “wrestling over the legal concepts of "intent" and "proximate cause." The jury rejected convicting her of less serious offense intentional child abuse. District Judge Bernard McGinn sentenced Brandy Blair to 30 to 40 years in prison.
Now Thursday’s Nebraska Supreme Court decision State v. Muro, 269 Neb. 703 (April 28, 2005) No. S-03-1399 puts the Blair verdict in danger, I think. In Muro, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed a bench trial conviction for felony child abuse resulting in death, the identical charge in our recent Blair case because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the parent’s abuse/neglect proximately resulted in the childs death.
A Dawson County District Court judge in a bench trial convicted susanna Muro of child abuse resulting in death, Stat. § 28-707 (Cum. Supp. 2004) because she failed for several hours to get her unconscious child to the hospital. Doctors determined the child had suffered a skull fracture while Susanna left the child with her husband. The Suprreme Court agreed that It is clear from the record that Vivianna sustained a serious traumatic head injury inflicted by someone other than Muro.
The Supreme Court equates the statute’s penalty enhancement for “resulting” in death with abuse that “proximately caused” the death. In other words “(the) moving or effective cause or fault which, in the natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by an efficient intervening cause, produces the death and without which the death would not have occurred.’” State v. William, 231 Neb. 84, 88, 435 N.W.2d 174, 177 (1989).
Physician testimony appeared inconclusive as to whether more prompt medical care would have save the child. The Court therefore held the State failed to prove a “resulting” death that was a proximate cause of the abuse. Muro finally won a reversal for resentencing on felony child abuse, a Class IIIA felony § 28-707.
The Supreme Court failed to explain however why it equated “proximate cause” from the cited motor vehicle homicide cases, eg William, 231 Neb. 84, 88 with the child abuse law’s wording of “resulting” in death.
28-306 Motor vehicle homicide; penalty makes it unlawful to “unintentionally” cause the death of another while violating any traffic law. 28-306 further punishes an intoxicated defendant for (proximately causing ) the death of another. 28-305 Manslaughter likewise penalizes (causing) the death of another unintentionally while committing any unlawful act.The Supreme Court will have some explaining to do when it applies the proximate cause standard to Ms. Blairs case because horrible as her conduct was, I don’t see how poor Christian’s death was the “proximate cause” of her meth-head mother.