Victim’s Father in Dorsey Trial Describes Relationship with Victim’s Mother, Doctors Testify

YoloCourt-12by Jade Wolansky and Sophie Marconi

The trial of the People v. Darnell Dorsey resumed on September 19, 2016, in Department 13 with Judge Paul Richardson presiding. Pursuant to California Penal Code sections 273a and 273ab, Mr. Dorsey is charged with assaulting and inflicting deadly injury upon his girlfriend’s 20-month-old child, Cameron Morrison.

The first witness to take the stand was “M,” Cameron’s father. Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin continued direct examination from last week. She inquired about his relationship with “VR,” Cameron’s mother.

M explained that he had been in a formal relationship with VR starting August 20, 2012. However, he had engaged sexually with her prior to this. M explained that he and VR planned on conceiving a child on that day as well.

M testified that he did not think Cameron Morrison was on regular medication. He also stated that Cameron had a serious fall once before, and that he had taken the child to the hospital.

Cross-examination by Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira was very brief. It was revealed that M had had affairs during his brief relationship with VR.

The second witness to testify was Dr. Kimberly Gokoffski, a fellow at the Keck School of Medicine at USC in ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is the study of abnormalities in the eye. She examined Cameron Morrison on Jan 23, 2014, during her residency at UC Davis Medical Center.

The DDA presented People’s Exhibit 15, a diagram with the anatomy of the eye. It was used to assist the jury in understanding the witness’ testimony.

Ms. Serafin asked the witness about the eye examination she performed on Cameron Morrison. Dr. Gokoffski explained that, during eye examinations, she looks for blood in the eye at multiple levels: in front, in and behind the retina. The witness noted that Cameron had blood in all these areas, as well as having optic disc and nerve swelling.

Dr. Gokoffski stated that there are several etiologies that cause these abnormalities. However, the two principal reasons are trauma and intracranial pressure (ICP).

She believed trauma was a cause because the vitreous, a gel-like substance, sits in the eye normally. However, when a child is shaken, the sheer force can cause the vitreous to move around. This leads to blood flowing into the eye. ICP squeezes the optic nerve, which subsequently causes blood to burst into the eye’s vessels.

The DDA proceeded to ask Dr. Gokoffski about shaken baby syndrome. The witness explained that shaken baby syndrome occurs when an individual shakes a baby so forcefully it prevents oxygen from accessing the brain. This leads to severe injury or death. Young children do not have necks that are sufficiently developed to withstand severe trauma.

However, Dr. Gokoffski stated that only 50 percent of cases of shaken baby syndrome show bleeding. Ms. Serafin asked if blood was present, whether that means Cameron Morrison’s case must be especially severe. Dr. Gokoffski stated that this is not necessarily true.

Next, Ms. Serafin inquired about blunt force trauma. Dr. Gokoffski replied that there would be external evidence of blunt force trauma, such as swelling, cuts and bruising on the eye and the surrounding area. No such evidence was found.

During cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke, Ms. Sequeira’s co-counsel examined the witness. He focused primarily on other possible causes for Cameron Morrison’s eye abnormalities.

Mr. Gocke began by asking if anemia could result in quicker blood flow.  Anemia is when an individual’s hemoglobin levels are low. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. The witness stated that this was not in her area of expertise.

He inquired if there were other possible etiologies for Cameron Morrison’s condition, such as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). He asked if CVST could be caused by severe infection. Dr. Gokoffski stated that CVST occurs when blood clots form in the brain. When blood cannot drain properly from the brain, this causes swelling and hemorrhaging. However, she testified that this also was not the focus of her medical specialty.

During redirect, Ms. Serafin asked if anemia could cause blood clots. The witness replied that this was a complicated question. Nonetheless, she would try to provide an explanation. She stated that when the body is anemic, it enters state of shock, during which blood clots can form.

Ms Serafin then asked if CVST could be caused by non-accidental trauma (NAT). Dr. Gokoffski stated another expert would be able to provide a more accurate answer. However, she stated CVST could be a result of severe illness, inherited disease, medications that change hormone levels, and cancer.

The final witness for the morning session in Department 13 was Dr. Kurt Kusserow, an emergency room physician at Sutter Davis Hospital. He was the physician present on January 22, 2014, when Cameron Morrison was brought to the emergency room.

Ms. Serafin asked the witness to describe what had happened when Cameron arrived at the hospital. He testified that he had given Cameron a bag valve mask to assist his respiration. He stated that his principal focus was on resuscitating the patient. Cameron Morrison was later attached to a ventilator and an endotracheal tube.

The prosecution inquired what complications would result if the tube was placed incorrectly. The witness replied that only one lung would be receiving oxygen. Evidence of this would present itself in X-rays, and promptly be corrected. When Cameron Morrison experienced this, the tube positioning was fixed.

The witness stated that Cameron had rib fractures, liver lacerations and unresponsive pupils. However, he did not have external injuries. Dr. Kusserow testified he had ordered X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) to evaluate the patient.

During cross-examination, Mr. Gocke asked if CPR compressions could cause rib fractures. Dr. Kesserow replied affirmatively that they could.

The defense then inquired whether Cameron Morrison’s hemoglobin levels were lower than average. The witness corroborated this. The patient’s hemoglobin level was 7.4 per deciliter, when the average is 11.5 per deciliter.

Mr. Gocke proceeded to ask if pneumonia affected the young and elderly more severely than the general population. Dr. Kusserow confirmed this.

At this point, Judge Richardson informed the court that the trial would reconvene in the afternoon in Department 13.

Testimony Continues

by Sophie Marocni

In the afternoon of September 19 in Department 13, the court resumed the case of the People v. Darnell Dorsey.

The first witness during this court session was a nurse who was on the team of medical professionals who tried to save Cameron Morrison’s life on January 22 and 23, 2014. This nurse stated that it is possible for young children to have their ribs broken during CPR, especially in a code blue situation.

The nurse also stated that it is possible for CPR to result in a lacerated liver, especially if the person who is having CPR done on them is incredibly young, like Cameron.

Later the People and the defense asked this nurse about the complications that occurred with the ventilator, which was placed improperly in the chest of Cameron. As a result of such issues, Cameron was deprived of oxygen for several minutes.

The defense asked the nurse if it is possible for someone (who requires a ventilator) being deprived of oxygen for four minutes to experience brain damage as a result. The nurse stated that she did not know. The nurse finished her testimony and was excused.

After a break, the court resumed and the second witness approached the stand, Melisa Callison. Melisa Callison worked at the Sutter Davis hospital as a respiratory therapist when Cameron arrived unconscious.

Ms. Callison stated that she first saw Cameron when she took over the bag ventilation from paramedics and saw the doctor intubate Cameron. Ms. Callison stated that, once the ventilation tube was in place, she kept track of the rate of oxygen reaching Cameron’s lungs.

When the defense asked Ms. Callison about the tube being placed two centimeters too low, she ensured the court that this was an insignificant error and would not have caused harm to Cameron.

The defense then asked Ms. Callison what the use was of fixing the placement of the ventilator tube, if the misplacement was irrelevant and could cause no complications.  Ms. Callison responded that if the ventilator is too low, it could cause issues in the amounts of oxygen reaching each lung. She then assured the court that at such a small distance, this was not the case for Cameron.

When the defense again questioned what the point was of replacing the tube if the distance was insignificant, Ms. Callison said this was simply because the replacement was procedure.

The next witness brought to the stand was Dr. Paul Lee, who at the time of Cameron’s death worked as an assistant professor in the department of radiology at the UC Davis Medical Center. He also stated that he has been a neural radiologist for the past four years.

Dr. Lee stated that he reviewed the CT scan of Cameron Morrison’s head. He signed the final report at 9:52 am on January 25, 2014.

Dr. Lee told the court that, throughout Cameron’s time at the hospital, he noticed that the child’s brain swelling had worsened, and he also noticed a small amount of hemorrhaging in the right side of the brain, that appeared to have stabilized.

Next, the prosecution showed the court a group of images that depicted Cameron’s brain and the damage that he had sustained. Dr. Lee explained these images, identifying signs of swelling, hemorrhaging and stabilization.

The trial will resume tomorrow, September 20, at 9 am.

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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