By Mariel Barbadillo
On November 2, 2016, after five weeks of witness testimonies and one day of deliberation, the jury for the trial of the People v. Darnell Dorsey reached a verdict.
Mr. Dorsey appeared choked up and emotional as he walked into the courtroom and looked over at his family. Relatives of the victim, Cameron Morrison, were also present.
Cameron was almost 20 months old when he died on January 25, 2014. Mr. Dorsey is charged with assaulting a child under the age of eight, inflicting great bodily injury resulting in death, violations of California Penal Code sections 273a and 273ab.
As to those charges, the jury found Mr. Dorsey guilty.
Mr. Dorsey immediately collapsed into his chair and began to sob with his head in his hands. His attorneys, Deputy Public Defenders Joseph Gocke and Martha Sequeira, consoled him.
Cameron’s family huddled together and embraced one another. Cameron’s father, “JM,” walked out of the courtroom proudly holding a picture of his son. “I’ve been fighting for three years,” he said, smiling.
An hour later, the court reconvened for trial on Mr. Dorsey’s prior strike allegations. The defendant waived his right to a jury trial on this matter, but four members of the jury returned to observe the remainder of the trial.
The first prior strike regarded a robbery, pursuant to California Penal Code sections 211 and 212.5, which occurred on or around March 5, 2010. After reviewing records provided by Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin, Judge Paul Richardson found beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Dorsey’s prior robbery conviction be sustained.
The court then discussed Mr. Dorsey’s probation violations, particularly a misdemeanor allegation of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Judge Richardson also sustained this prior strike.
Mr. Dorsey will be sentenced on December 2, 2016.
Guest Commentary: Child Abuse Case Raises Awareness, Touches Many
by Antoinnette, Borbon
It was back on January 23, 2014, when the Vanguard first learned of little Cameron Morrison’s condition, as his maternal grandmother sat sobbing on the phone to her daughter, “VR.”
After learning that the toddler was perceived to be brain dead by doctors at UC Davis Medical Center, a visibly shaken Tracy Rix sat crying on a bench as she awaited her boyfriend to finish his court appearance.
Ms. Rix, maternal grandmother of Cameron Morrison, told the Vanguard that her grandson was taken to the UCD Med Center, where doctors believed he would not recover from his injuries, allegedly inflicted by her daughter’s then-boyfriend, Darnell Dorsey.
She told the Vanguard the toddler had been transported from Sutter Davis Hospital the night before, after first being taken there because he had stopped breathing.
Ms. Rix sobbed inconsolably as she repeated the words of “J,” Cameron’s older half-brother, “Daddy hit my brother in the head and he got sick,” J told his grandmother. Ms. Rix continued to tell the Vanguard that she had suspected he had done something to hurt the child. She stated, “He is a violent man with a criminal past of violence,” she continued to sob.
On January 24, 2014, the Vanguard was allowed to visit little Cameron at UCD Med Center.
It was there the tiny lifeless body lay hooked up to a breathing apparatus and IVs.
Doctors attending to him were going to run one more test to see if any changes to brain activity, or lack thereof, had taken place.
Cameron’s mother, VR, and the toddler’s father, “JM,” were present. Both appeared to be in a state of shock.
It was just a day later that Cameron passed away from his injuries.
Today, jurors found Darnell Dorsey guilty of felony assault on a child under eight years old, resulting in death.
After a 28-day-trial in the state’s case against Darnell Dorsey, the Honorable Paul Richardson ruled to uphold a prior felony strike.
Dorsey faces 50 years to life with the strike upheld.
Throughout the lengthy, often emotional, trial, prosecution experts concluded that the toddler suffered several blunt force trauma injuries to the brain, with additional injuries to his body and organs.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, Forensic Neuropathologist, described the injuries as a combination of both rotational and blunt force. In autopsy photos, he explained injuries to the liver, lungs, ribs and abdominal area of the toddler.
However, defense experts asserted the toddler died as a result of pneumonia that caused a cascade of events, leading to the death of Cameron Morrison.
In his initial interrogation, Dorsey admitted to shaking the toddler as he found him unresponsive on the living room floor. He mentioned “popping” Cameron in the mouth on occasions when the toddler wouldn’t stop crying.
Dorsey asserted that he panicked after finding the child unresponsive, shaking and slapping him in an attempt to revive him.
But it was Dorsey’s own words that deemed him unbelievable to jurors, stated some of the jurors to the Vanguard.
“His inconsistencies gave him up,” said one juror.
A couple more jurors explained they believed the case had overwhelming physical evidence against Dorsey.
Awareness of Abuse
A grave concern in these types of cases is the lack of attention Child Protective Services (now renamed Child Welfare Services, or CWS) give. Often times it’s too late and/or cases go unnoticed by doctors and CPS, leaving children with injuries or even death.
Even if there are identifying factors that suggest risk of abuse, or potentially abusive parents or caregivers, many times they are never reported to authorities by family members or doctors until it is too late.
Perhaps counseling for young parents can be mandatory before and after a child is born. Coping skills during stressful situations in parenting can be taught to high-risk individuals as a preventative measure. Perhaps a social worker can set up visits to high-risk parents to aid and guide young parents.
It was apparent, from testimony during trial from an ex-girlfriend, that Dorsey had a quick temper.
Although a love for the children could be assumed, Dorsey exhibited a propensity to violent behavior.
There were red flags, from all indications, within the evidence heard. But there were also indications that the toddler may have needed medical attention long before Dorsey allegedly lost control.
According to Dr. Ikechi Ogan, the doctor who performed Cameron’s autopsy, the lungs were filled with pneumonia. It was also noted that an endotracheal tube was placed incorrectly. It raises valid questions. However, even if we entertain the notion of death by pneumonia with a resulting cascade of events, one cannot avoid the evidence of blunt force trauma.
Sadly, little Cameron Morrison passed, leaving the red flags undetected, setting the stage for tragedy.
Although the conviction may come with a victory in justice for the tiny toddler, it is not without the pulling at the heartstrings of Deputy District Attorneys Michelle Serafin and Ms. Young, who gave undivided attention to the case.
Defense counsel, Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke, who gave powerfully detailed closing argument in his defense of Dorsey, was not without emotion either.
Co-counsel, Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira, raised the eyebrows of jurors as she interrogated witnesses in her determination for truthful answers. She proved some witnesses to be less than consistent, comparing their testimony with their prior statements.
The exhausting efforts and the effects of the trial could be seen on the faces of both the prosecution and defense counsel.
In the words of Judge Paul Richardson, presiding over the state’s case, “it’s been a long tough case for both sides, I’m glad it’s over.”
Cameron Morrison’s story will never be forgotten, nor the image that remains with the Vanguard, that of a precious child clinging to life as he lay awaiting the angels to take him home.
The adorable toddler, with his smile and larger-than-life presence, shall forever remain in our hearts.