Trial Begins in Davis Child Death

YoloCourt-5By Sophie Marconi

On September 15, 2016, in Department 13 the prosecution provided opening statements regarding the case of the People v. Darnell Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey is charged with the death of a child that was in his care. The trial broke for the day at the end of the prosecution’s opening statement, before the defense could present their statement. The defense provided their opening statement the next morning.

Judge Richardson first gave jury instructions. The prosecution then began their opening statement by describing the alleged offense committed by the defendant, Darnell Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey has been charged with Penal Code section 273ab, assault on a child under the age of eight years old resulting in death, by someone having the care and custody of the child.

Cameron Morrison was pronounced dead in the hospital on January 25, 2014. At the time of death, Cameron was 19 months old and weighed 27 pounds. The prosecution stated that he was a perfectly healthy, growing child. The events leading up to Cameron’s death began around 8 pm on January 22, 2014, when Cameron stopped breathing.

At the time, Cameron’s mother was at the gym with her aunts. The only adult in the house was Darnell Dorsey. The prosecution argued that Darnell Dorsey brutally beat and shook Cameron until he was unconscious. The prosecution also stated that Mr. Dorsey kicked Cameron on his abdomen, which they believe to be the cause of the multiple rib fractures that Cameron obtained during the incident.

When Cameron arrived at the hospital on January 22, his heartbeat was incredibly faint. He had not been breathing for a while at this point, and doctors were very concerned that there was nothing they could do. The prosecution told the jury that multiple nurses told police officers that Dorsey was acting strangely at the hospital. Several nurses even told officers that they suspected Dorsey had beaten and shaken Cameron, causing his death.

The prosecution told the court that Mr. Dorsey seemed to feel a sense of detachment from Cameron. Dorsey was not Cameron’s father, and the prosecution said he had told Cameron’s mother at one point that he wished she had never had Cameron. The prosecution also stated that Dorsey is likely the cause of previous injuries, such as healed and healing rib fractures, that were found on Cameron at the hospital.

The prosecution then stated that Darnell never called for help. He did not call the police or an ambulance. He also drove to the hospital separately from the family. He supposedly showed no concern at the hospital, while the other members of the family appeared panicked and vocalized their apprehension.

The prosecution described the medical conditions found on Cameron’s body, stating that the broken ribs found on the front and back of Cameron were highly indicative of impact injury. Doctors also found hemorrhaging of the optic nerve and brain. The cause of death was evaluated as traumatic brain injury caused by multiple blunt force injuries.

The next morning the defense provided their opening statement. The statement went as follows: Darnell Dorsey has waited in jail for 968 days to provide his side of the story in court. On January 23 of 2014 at 1 am, nurses made conclusions based on initial presentations without examining any lab work or previous medical records. Nurses gossiped to the police, stating that they suspected Mr. Dorsey was the cause of Cameron’s death, and Mr. Dorsey was immediately arrested.

While Cameron did have recently fractured ribs, according to the defense it is very plausible that these fractures occurred during the multiple CPR attempts made by family members, EMT workers, and Darnell Dorsey himself. Cameron had severely low vitamin D levels, so his bones were weaker than the average child. Dorsey did not call the police when Cameron stopped breathing because he did not have access to a phone. The mother had taken the only working phone the family owned to the gym with her.

Cameron’s brain was shut off from oxygen for 20 minutes before he arrived at the hospital. This deprivation caused the swelling and other symptoms that appeared to result from trauma. The differential diagnosis exam showed that the cause of death was Global Cerebral Ischemia, insufficient blood flow to the brain, resulting in lack of  oxygen to the brain.

The damage in Cameron’s brain and eyes, according to the defense, was compatible with oxygen deprivation and not axonal injury from an outside trauma to the head. Cameron’s blood was found to contain incredibly high levels of lactic acid and three times the normal amount of glucose, both signs of ischemia.

At the age of 19 months, children have disproportionately more weight in their head compared to the rest of their bodies. Because of this, if Cameron had experienced shaken baby syndrome, there would have been obvious injuries on his neck and spine. This was not the case.

The previous rib fractures that were found on Cameron’s body were also explained. Cameron had likely obtained rib fractures from two previous falls that had occurred prior to the incident. At one of the incidents, Cameron had fallen off a three-foot deck and was immediately taken to the ER.

Lab results revealed that Cameron had anemia and a clotting disorder that both could have played a role in the hemorrhages found in his brain and his optic nerve.

Dorsey took care of Cameron and his brother constantly. He was the “home-maker.” None of the mother’s family members ever voiced any concern about Mr. Dorsey. Cameron’s aunts even told the police that they saw nothing suspicious in Dorsey’s behavior.

The defense ended their opening statement by reminding the jury of the importance of their decision. They stated that, unless the jury is sure beyond a reasonable doubt that Darnell Dorsey is guilty, they must acquit him. The defense concluded their statement with, “You will declare his innocence when you view the totality of the evidence.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    Nurses gossiped to the police, stated that they suspected Mr. Dorsey was the cause of Cameron’s death, and Mr. Dorsey was immediately arrested.”

    Nurses are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse. This is not gossip. Even if they prove to be incorrect, the reporting of suspicious is mandated by law.

    1. Sophie Marconi

      Hey Tia, I want to make it clear that these were the words of the defense. I should have quoted the term “gossip” to emphasize this and will try to be clearer in the future.

  2. Tia Will


     I wonder how common such distortions are in jury trials?”

    Unfortunately, I believe that such distortions are common on both sides. Otherwise, how would one explain the completely different interpretations that are put forward by the prosecution and defense in almost every case that goes to trial ?

    A recent example was in the Green trial where both the prosecution and the defense were trying to tell us that they knew better than the other side what was in Ms. Green”s mind at that horrible night on the levee, when in fact, neither side had any idea what was going on in her head. In my mind, informed by many, many years of clinical practice, if the dueling experts cannot come to an accurate diagnosis that both can agree upon, how could the members of a jury possibly come to the conclusion that they knew beyond a reasonable doubt ?

    1. tribeUSA

      good point with the Green trial (I hadn’t followed the details of that case closely; I found it depressing). Seems to me highly plausible a drug-addled highly stressed Mom who was not in her right mind; maybe had a mental breakdown; too bad CPS is not always prescient.

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