Testimony Continues in Davis Child Death Case

YoloCourt-12by Sarah Leann, Samantha Brill, and Carla Arango

The morning of September 29, the case of the People v. Dorsey resumed with Judge Paul Richardson presiding. Pursuant to  Cal. Penal Code sections 273a and 273ab, Darnell Dorsey is charged with assaulting and inflicting deadly injury upon his girlfriend’s 20-month-old child, Cameron Morrison, on January 22, 2014.

The first witness of the morning was Janell Bestpitch, currently a detective with the Davis Police Department. Her job often consists of writing narrative reports, and she often records the people being questioned in order to write such reports.

Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin asked Det. Bestpitch what her role was on January 25 of 2014. Det. Bestpitch stated that her role at the time was that of a patrol officer, to handle calls for security. She stated that on January 25, 2014, at approximately 5:55 pm, she came in contact with “PC Jr.” and “TR.” PC Jr. is the brother of the victim’s mother (“VR”), and TR is their mother (and the victim’s grandmother). PC Jr. and TR had brought to the police two items of clothing, inside what appeared to be “new plastic bags.”

Ms. Serafin asked Det. Bestpitch where the shirts had been found. The detective explained that she was told that that the adult-sized white T-shirt was found in the master bedroom on the floor. She also stated that a child-sized shirt was found on the kitchen floor. She continued to describe the condition under which the shirts were brought in, and that they were found on January 25 between 12-1 pm.

Next, photos of the articles of clothing were presented by Ms. Serafin. People’s Exhibit 56 was shown first and Det. Bestpitch was asked to identify it. She described it as an “adult size T-shirt.” People’s Exhibit 64 was also presented and identified as another T-shirt. People’s Exhibit 65 was a closer picture of the adult T-shirt. Exhibit 118 was a long-sleeved child’s shirt. Exhibit 120 appeared to be the front of the top area of the child’s shirt, with brown staining.

After the photos were presented, cross-examination was conducted by Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira. Ms. Sequeira asked Det. Bestpitch if she had previous knowledge of the case. The detective responded, saying she had heard about the case in the office, about 48 hours or less after Mr. Dorsey had been arrested.

Ms. Sequeira asked Det. Bestpitch if she knew that PC Jr. was facing a 1st degree robbery charge and that he is currently on probation. Bestpitch explained that she was unaware of that. Ms. Sequeira continued her questioning, indicating that Bestpitch’s role as a detective is to gather facts – however, it is unclear whether those facts that were gathered are true or not. For instance, the adult size T-shirt is said to be a male’s T-shirt. However, Ms. Sequeira presented documentation off the T-shirt’s website, printed on the spot, and it was concluded that the shirts are unisex and there was no way in knowing whether the shirt was for a male or female.

Next, the second witness, Dr. Nicole Glaser, was brought in to testify. Dr. Glaser is a pediatric endocrinologist. Ms. Serafin questioned her about rickets disease. Dr. Glaser explains that rickets are a “bone disease that relates to hormones.” It is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually relating to vitamin D deficiency. Dr. Glaser continued to describe that there are different types, but they all have a similar clinical presentation. She stated that the results can be interpreted by an X-ray.

Dr. Glaser was asked to look at Cameron Morrison’s lab results in the pediatric intensive care unit. She explained that, after looking at a variety of different results for vitamin D levels, Cameron Morrison did not have rickets.

Cross-examination was then conducted by Deputy Pubic Defender Joseph Gocke. Mr. Gocke asked for more clarification on the different levels measured. He also asked what an average child’s vitamin D levels would be. Dr. Glaser said that at age one to two, typical levels would be 150-350 nanomoles/liter. She said that Cameron Morrison was at the 162 nmol/L level, which was reassuring for his bone health.

Next was the redirect examination by Ms. Serafin. Ms. Serafin asked Dr. Glaser if she was able to look at the results prior to coming to court and whether her opinion had changed. Dr. Glaser stated that she had, and that she still holds the same evaluations to be true. The conclusion made by Dr. Glaser was that Cameron Morrison did not have rickets or any other bone disease.

The third witness of the day, “SS,” was brought in to testify for the defense. She was asked by Ms. Sequeira if she knew Mr. Dorsey. SS responded that she did. When asked how, she stated that her boyfriend, “DB,” is Mr. Dorsey’s friend. After questioning, it was revealed that SS and DB are parents to three children, aged six, five and one currently.

Next, SS was asked by the defense if she had ever lived with Mr. Dorsey. SS stated that she and DB lived with Mr. Dorsey for a month in 2012. In that month, Mr. Dorsey never lost patience with anyone, never over-disciplined, and never made SS feel uncomfortable. She would often leave her children with him, for short periods of times, while she was running errands, such as grocery runs.

Previous Neighbor of Mr. Dorsey Shares Observation of Dorsey’s Character and Interactions with Her Children

By Samantha Brill

After the lunch break, SS returned to complete her testimony on behalf of the defense.

The prosecution asked SS how often she saw Mr. Dorsey in the months prior to the date in question, January 22, 2014. The witness was also asked if, within that time period, she knew that Mr. Dorsey had a child. SS responded by explaining that she would see Mr. Dorsey about three to four times a month, but she did not know he had a son until 2014, when she met both his son, “J,” and his child’s mother, “VR,” also the mother of Cameron.

Ms. Serafin then went on to make it clear that the witness did not know about Cameron’s previous injuries in the months prior to January of 2014. SS also had never witnessed Dorsey being violent to his or to any children before.

The defense briefly continued with a their examination of SS, determining that she in fact does not believe that Mr. Dorsey is guilty of the crimes he is accused of on January 22, 2014.

Ms. Serafin, on cross-examination for the prosecution, determined that, other than the bias SS brings with her, she had not done any extensive research or investigation on Mr. Dorsey’s case. The witness confirmed her lack of research and attributed her knowledge of the case to conversations she had with Cameron’s mother in the months closely following the January of 2014 incident.

The defense had no further questions and SS was dismissed without a pending recall.

Next the defense called to the stand Mr. Dorsey’s old neighbor “Ms. W,” to testify on Mr. Dorsey’s character and interactions with her three children prior to his moving to Davis.

Ms. W lived near Mr. Dorsey in an apartment complex in Sacramento for about two and a half years. This is where Mr. Dorsey babysat her three children, at the time aged eleven, six and two. Ms. W explained to the court that her two youngest children are disabled – the two-year-old has recently been diagnosed with autism and the six-year-old is deaf – and that Mr. Dorsey was able to effectively care for them, given their challenges.

The defense questioned Ms. W on whether she had ever had any reason to be concerned about Mr. Dorsey watching her children. She explained that he always exhibited a calm temperament around her children and she had never witnessed any marks or scratches on her children after they had been in his care.

The prosecution then cross-examined the witness, asking about Dorsey’s living situation in his apartment and for details on her knowledge about his personal life. Ms. W went on to explain that she knew about Mr. Dorsey’s child but had only met the child once or twice in passing, when the child was very young, and she had never witnessed any women living in his residence. The witness knew of two other men living in the apartment with Mr. Dorsey at the time, however, she had never been inside the apartment.

 Ms. Serafin then went on to read two statements made by Mr. Dorsey, describing stressful situations when caring for his son J and for Cameron, and she asked Ms. W to characterize then. Responding, Ms. W explained that they just sounded like a parent who was frustrated with the children, but it was nothing out of the ordinary or overly aggressive, and she stated that “it’s hard to be patient with your own kids all the time.”

by Carla Arango

The last witness to testify was Dr. Daniel Ichel, a pediatric radiologist at Sutter Health in Sacramento. Dr. Ichel read CT (computerized tomography, a series of X-rays from differing angles) scans of the brain and body of Cameron Morrison in January 2014.

Ms. Serafin established that the CT scans are images used to diagnose the cause of injury of patients. Dr. Ichel agreed and said he looks at images, as well as reports of what he sees, and gives his best interpretation as to the cause of the injury.

Ms. Serafin presented screenshots of Cameron’s CT scans and proceeded to ask questions.

Dr. Ichel was allowed to leave his seat and he stood at the podium to better observe the images and give an explanation of what he saw.

Dr. Ichel said he observed a “subtle loss of gray-white matter differentiation.” A healthy person’s brain should display distinct differentiation between gray and white matter..

Next, he looked at CT scans of the abdomen, specifically the rib cage.

Dr. Ichel said he perceived prior injuries when he looked at the images. He said he saw injuries to different organs and bones.

Dr. Ichel explained that he could tell if the bone fractures we acute, sub-acute, or healing by looking for evidence in callus formation. Signs of callus healing are not visible until 10-14 days after the injury took place.

Dr. Ichel saw a total of 13 fractured ribs, most of them acute and healing fractures.

Dr. Ichel also said the CT scans displayed evidence of liver laceration. He explained that linear areas of low density suggest injuries to liver.

The trial is scheduled to resume on September 30, 2016, at 9 a.m. and Dr. Ichel is expected to return.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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