By Mariel Barbadillo
On September 26, 2016, Judge Paul Richardson presided over the resumption of the trial of the People v. Darnell Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey is charged with assaulting and inflicting deadly injury upon his girlfriend’s 20-month-old son, Cameron Morrison.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin called “TR,” Cameron’s grandmother, to the witness stand. TR first met Mr. Dorsey in 2012, but she knew of him before as the father of her other grandson, “J.” TR saw her grandchildren regularly over weekends, and at times throughout the week as well.
She said that, for the most part Cameron was healthy, but the “last cold was really hard on him,” referring to the illness he contracted in January 2014 just prior to his death. J had a similar cold, but TR said it was “not quite as hard on him.”
When asked if she noticed any bumps and bruises on their bodies, TR stated, “not more than the average boy.” Ms. Serafin asked if they had more bumps and bruises once Mr. Dorsey came into the picture. TR replied, “I wouldn’t say that. I didn’t think anything was going on.”
The prosecution then presented to the witness pictures of scrapes and bumps on Cameron’s body. TR said she remembers when the pictures were taken, but she could not recall noticing the marks on Cameron at the time.
One of the pictures was taken at J’s birthday party in 2014. Ms. Serafin asked if anything seemed wrong with Cameron that day. TR said nothing was wrong with him other than a runny nose.
The prosecution moved on to the topic of Mr. Dorsey’s behavior around the children. Ms. Serafin asked if TR had ever observed Mr. Dorsey’s interactions with J and Cameron. She said nothing Mr. Dorsey did or said was angry, but, in her opinion, he was “rough.” She recounted how Mr. Dorsey had tried to teach J how to tackle. It appeared rough, but TR did not believe Mr. Dorsey’s actions were done in anger.
The day Cameron was brought to the hospital, he and J had stayed at TR’s house from nine in the morning to one in the afternoon. TR said Cameron had a “really bad runny nose, really congested,” but, other than that, Cameron acted “normal.”
Then, Cameron vomited. TR took his temperature and discovered he had a fever of 102 degrees. TR gave Cameron Children’s Tylenol and, although he did not vomit again, TR claims Cameron was “not acting like his normal self.” He was not crying, but he seemed sad and down.
Darnell picked Cameron and J up from TR’s house around one that afternoon. As soon as he walked in, TR claimed Cameron started to whine.
The prosecution asked TR if she was concerned about Cameron’s whining. She said she did not think anything of it until Mr. Dorsey started yelling at Cameron to stop crying. At that point, TR yelled back at Mr. Dorsey, telling him to stop yelling, because Cameron did not feel well.
The next time TR saw both of her grandchildren was at Sutter Davis Hospital. The nurse told the family that Cameron’s brain was bleeding. TR immediately went to get her son, Cameron’s uncle, and took him back to the hospital.
When TR returned to the hospital, she noticed J had a black eye, which he did not have that morning while he was in her care. She asked J what happened to his eye, and J simply put his head down.
TR then approached her daughter “VR,” Cameron’s mother. They had a conversation (that could not be disclosed due to inadmissible hearsay), during which Cameron’s mother fell into TR’s arms and began to cry.
Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequiera then began cross-examination of the witness. She asked if the information doctors told Cameron’s family at UC Davis Medical Center was consistent with the information given to them by nurses at Sutter Davis Hospital. TR stated the information from the two institutions were inconsistent.
A nurse from Sutter told the family that Cameron’s brain was bleeding, and TR said she instantly thought it was “shaken baby syndrome.” She then told her daughter that Cameron’s condition was not an accident.
Ms. Sequiera asked if TR was, at the time, operating under the assumption that someone had inflicted injury on Cameron. TR confirmed this. She knew that neither she nor her daughter caused the injuries, and she presumed Mr. Dorsey was responsible.
Nothing prior to the incident in question led TR to think Cameron and J were being abused. When asked if she had suspected Mr. Dorsey was abusing them before the incident in question, she stated, “I would have kicked his ass.”
During redirect examination, TR disclosed that she did not question her daughter about Cameron or J’s injuries. She said that, before this incident, her daughter would call whenever the children were hurt.
In retrospect, TR said she wonders if past injuries were due to abuse. According to her, the children seemed to only get hurt when their mother was away at work.
Cross-examining the witness again, Ms. Sequiera asked about Cameron’s vomiting. TR stated that she had never seen a child projectile vomit like Cameron did, likening the event to an exorcism.
Ms. Sequiera questioned the witness as to why she did not take Cameron to the hospital herself. TR said she had a cast on her leg that made it difficult to get around. Ms. Sequiera countered by saying that TR’s boyfriend was at home at the time and could have driven them to the hospital. TR responded that her daughter was going to schedule an appointment later in the day to take Cameron to the hospital herself.
Due to critical circumstances concerning one of the juror’s family members, Judge Richardson decided to end the morning session early and discontinue afternoon proceedings. The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning, September 27, 2016.