by Sarah Senan and Samantha Brill
On October 25, 2016, Judge Paul Richardson presided over the resumption of the trial of the People v. Darnell Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey has been charged with assaulting and causing fatal injury to his girlfriend’s 20-month-old son, Cameron Morrison, in January of 2014. Deputy Public Defenders Martha Sequeira and Joseph Gocke represent Darnell Dorsey, and Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin represents the People.
Mr. Dorsey returned to the witness stand and the People continued with cross-examination.
On October 24, the afternoon court session ended with Ms. Serafin questioning the way Mr. Dorsey held Cameron. Mr. Dorsey stated that he lifted Cameron off the floor by his shoulders. Cameron was still lying down flat, with his legs on the floor, and it was just his upper body that was off the floor. The People continued to question the location of Mr. Dorsey’s hands. Mr. Dorsey stated that his hands were on the outside of Cameron’s shoulders. Ms. Serafin questioned if Mr. Dorsey has a clear memory that his hands were on the child’s shoulders. Mr. Dorsey responded that he does. Mr. Dorsey continued to testify that he was holding Cameron and was patting Cameron’s face to see if he would wake up.
Ms. Serafin asked Mr. Dorsey if he knew whether or not he had told the Davis Police Department that “Cameron was messing around.” Mr. Dorsey stated that he does not remember and that, if he did, it may have been taken out of context.
When Cameron was unresponsive, Mr. Dorsey yelled Cameron’s name to see if he would wake up. It was at this point that he also shook Cameron a few times. Mr. Dorsey stated that he did not shake Cameron excessively.
The prosecution continued to ask Mr. Dorsey about the position that Cameron was in. Mr. Dorsey explained that Cameron’s bottom and legs were on the floor and that he was pivoted at an angle. During this time, Mr. Dorsey had placed his hands on Cameron. However, he does not remember exactly where his hands were. Mr. Dorsey testified, “I was doing everything.” Mr. Dorsey explained that he was doing everything and anything in order to help Cameron regain his conscious. He performed CPR, pressed on his chest, and blew into Cameron’s mouth. Mr. Dorsey said that he picked Cameron up “like a baby,” with one hand on his bottom and the other around his back.
Ms. Serafin asked Mr. Dorsey if he knew when Cameron started bleeding. Mr. Dorsey responded by saying, “I don’t know.” Mr. Dorsey claimed that he never saw blood.
After Mr. Dorsey picked up Cameron, he went to the bathroom and splashed water in Cameron’s face. At this point, Mr. Dorsey became emotional. He stated that Cameron had gasped at one point during his frantic attempts to help him.
Ms. Serafin asked Mr. Dorsey what types of t-shirts he usually wears. Mr. Dorsey responded saying that he does not dress in a specific way and wears whatever he wants. Ms. Serafin questioned whether or not Mr. Dorsey normally wears (specifically) white t-shirts. Mr. Dorsey stated that he does not only wear t-shirts that are white.
People’s Exhibit 70 was presented to the court. The image pictured a tissue box and loose tissues spread out. Mr. Dorsey continued to testify that he was in a state of panic and was so scared that he did not know what to do. He ran across the street to the neighbors. Mr. Dorsey stated that he was not looking for a phone, but was looking for help. Ms. Serafin stated that Mr. Dorsey must not have banged the door hard enough to wake up his neighbors and get the help that he needed. Mr. Dorsey stated that he believed he pounded the door loudly. Ms. Serafin questioned why Mr. Dorsey went to the neighbors’ house to get help, and whether or not that was the quickest and most appropriate way to handle the situation he was in.
After coming back to the trailer, Mr. Dorsey saw a light through the blinds. “VR,” Cameron’s mother, had returned from the gym. She took Cameron, and Mr. Dorsey was left with his son, “J,” the older half-brother to Cameron. He then grabbed a sweater for J and went to the Dutch Bros. coffee kiosk at the corner of Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive, where VR and Cameron had gone.
Ms. Serafin then projected People’s Exhibit 248. It was a picture of the master bedroom. Mr. Dorsey stated that he never went back to the trailer to clean anything up.
When Mr. Dorsey was at the trailer, he had stepped on Cameron’s plate. He picked it up and put it in the sink. Ms. Serafin questioned why Mr. Dorsey took the time to do that when Cameron was headed to the hospital. Later, Ms. Serafin presented People’s Exhibit 133. She asked Mr. Dorsey if saw the plate in the sink, in the photo. He stated that he did not know. Ms. Serafin claimed that Mr. Dorsey testified earlier that he stepped on the plate and put it somewhere.
Ms. Serafin then asked Mr. Dorsey about instant messages that were exchanged between him and VR. On January 22, 2014, at 6:35 pm, messages were exchanged from a borrowed laptop or a PlayStation. Mr. Dorsey had asked VR to get him a “slusher,” which is a cigar. Mr. Dorsey stated that he did not remember sending the message. Ms. Serafin showed him the messages to help refresh his memory. Mr. Dorsey also sent another message, at 7:19 pm, saying: “Nvm, I’ll get one” and “My love.”
Ms. Serafin asked Mr. Dorsey if he was on medication. Mr. Dorsey testified that he is on medication if marijuana is considered medicine. He stated that VR and he both have prescriptions for marijuana.
Ms. Serafin asked Mr. Dorsey if he puts photos on Instagram. She then asked if he was wearing white t-shirts in these pictures. Mr. Dorsey responded that he has multiple shirts.
The prosecution then displayed Exhibit 247 – a video recording from September 11, 2009. The video was related to the robbery case that Mr. Dorsey was involved in when he was 17 years old. The video consisted of Mr. Dorsey giving his statement, separately, to a police officer and a detective. In the video, Mr. Dorsey could be seen wiping his tears with tissues, as he was being questioned. When the police officer said that the stolen phone and golf cart matched his fingerprints, Mr. Dorsey said that it was not possible. He claimed to never see a golf cart.
A majority of the video was played, however it was later paused because the prosecution did not hand out complete transcripts.
Dorsey Testifies for the Second Consecutive Day
by Samantha Brill
After the lunch break, Ms. Serafin continued to show the court the video of Mr. Dorsey being questioned by the police about a robbery for which he was convicted while he was in high school. After the video was over, she continued her cross-examination of the defendant.
Following up on the conclusion of the video, Ms. Serafin asked Dorsey if he cried during the taping of the video. Dorsey responded by stating no, that when he cries he makes a sobbing noise and tears up, which was not displayed on the video. However, he did tell the officer that he cried during the interview because he was hurt that a friend sold him a stolen phone, and he admitted to the court that this statement was a lie.
Dorsey testified that he did not remember this interview. However, he does remember that, after spending time in juvenile hall, he did ask to speak to an officer to confess about his involvement regarding the robbery.
Ms. Serafin then showed the court People’s Exhibit 246, the audio recording of this confession. Dorsey admitted to the court that he committed this robbery because he was intimidated by his friend and that he takes full responsibility for his actions.
The People then moved to question the defendant about a phone call he made to his mother in jail on January 25, 2014, where he stated, “I might have said too much.” Dorsey did not recall this conversation. Ms. Serafin then showed the defendant the transcript of this phone call, which did not refresh his memory. Ms. Serafin then introduced People’s Exhibit 266, the audio recording of this phone call.
Dorsey recognized the voices in the call as his and his mother’s, and acknowledged that he sounded like he was crying, but he still had no recollection of the call. The defendant then explained that during the phone call he was feeling guilty about the crimes he was accused of, and was under the impression that his actions of shaking Cameron to see if he was conscious had led to Cameron’s death.
Furthermore, Dorsey explained that, during the time of the phone call, he did not understand how violent an attack he was being accused of. He continuously told the officers during his interviews that he shook Cameron only to try to wake him, and that he never punched the child in any way.
Ms. Serafin then questioned Dorsey about the statement he made to his mother in that same phone call, saying, “Everyone is finding out what I did.” Dorsey explained that by everyone he meant that the other inmates in the jail were finding out about the charges for which he was arrested.
The People’s cross-examination was then put on hold while Ms. Serafin looked for a misplaced piece of evidence.
Mrs. Sequeira continued with the redirect of the defendant, asking about his time in jail around the date of the phone call with his mother. Dorsey explained that he was under maximum security, meaning that each day he was only allowed out of his cell for 45 minutes, which was when he had access to a phone.
During that first year after the event, Dorsey explained that officers continually told him that his shaking of Cameron is what caused his death. At the time, Dorsey was unaware of the severity of Cameron’s injuries. This is why he assumed that the force he applied when shaking Cameron was enough to kill him.
When talking to his mother he was fearful about what others in the jail would do to him if they found out he was accused of killing a child. Mrs. Sequeira explained to the court that often times the officers working in the jail are the ones who tell other inmates what others are being accused of.
Mrs. Sequeira then asked why Dorsey denied the opportunity to be put in protective custody. Dorsey explained that he did not want to be placed with people who actually had been convicted of a crime as horrible as that of killing a child, among other serious crimes.
The defense then moved back to questioning the defendant about the night of the event in question. Dorsey answered by stating that he did not remember what color shirt he was wearing that night and, as the night played out, he never went back to the trailer.
Mrs. Sequeira then took time to point out to the court that the defendant could have lied about the color of his shirt that night in order to avoid being placed in the white t-shirt with blood on it but he did not. She also pointed out that Dorsey willingly agreed to talk to the officers for two hours, during which the officers never gave him information on Cameron’s heath – even after Dorsey asked.
Furthermore, it was only at the preliminary hearing that Dorsey was told details about Cameron’s injuries, causing the defendant to realize that he did not shake Cameron hard enough to have caused his death. And with that the defense rested.
Going back to Ms. Serafin with the prosecution, she had located the evidence she intended to present. Dorsey was excused from the stand while Ms. Serafin introduced People’s Exhibit 267, the video recording of Dorsey’s two-hour interview the morning after the event in question.
The court watched the first 15 minutes of this video before breaking for the evening. The trial will resume watching the remainder of the video on Wednesday at 1:30pm, after which Dorsey will retake the stand in his own defense.