By Pedro Maturana
The trial of Ronnie Earnest resumed Wednesday with the prosecution calling a final witness before both sides rested their cases. Ronnie Earnest is being charged with child abuse and corporal injury to a child for allegedly beating his then 14-year-old daughter in March of last year.
Deputy Public Defender Peter Borruso called to the stand “Ms. W” from Child Protective Services, who followed up on the incident. Borruso asked her about her conversation with Earnest’s mother, “Ms. E.”
Ms. E told Ms. W that she was contacted by the mother [of the daughter], “Ms. D,” to come to the house. Ms. D mentioned that things had gotten out of hand. The minor was yelling in the car and the father had pulled her and dragged her into the house. Ms. E denied that that the father ever punched the child.
Deputy District Attorney Daniele M. Schlehofer asked Ms. W if she had written any of Ms. E’s statements down. She replied yes and began to read some of them— “didn’t know what happened,” “minor yelling and screaming,” “mom came back,” and that Ms. D had said “everything got out of hand.”
Ms. Schlehofer called Officer Derrick Russell back to the stand.
Russell testified that when he spoke to Ms. E she did not mention that the child was kicking. Ms. E also told him that Earnest and the mother pulled the child out of the car and not that the child had fallen out of the car. Also, Earnest was not taken to be treated for injuries.
After Russell’s testimony, both the defense and prosecution rested.
Ms. Schlehofer began her closing statements.
Schlehofer asked the jury to recall the 911 call from “Ms. N” who was not related to the [Earnest] family. Ms. N demonstrated the swinging motions she witnessed coming from Earnest. Allegedly, Earnest began hitting his daughter while he was in the front seat and then went to the back of the car to continue hitting her.
She saw the daughter being dragged out of the car. She heard screams and an older man cursing at a child. She saw him throwing punches at the child. She knew how bad it was. As soon as Ms. N saw blood, she called 911.
Additionally, her testimony was consistent with the daughter’s, who also mentioned that she had been hit at least five times.
Schlehofer explained to the jury the definition of an injury that is likely to produce great bodily harm as it is written for Count 1. She reminded jurors that the American Medical Response witness testified that 200 – 300 cc’s of blood could cause internal issues.
Pointing to the possibility of great harm due to the injuries, Schlehofer mentioned how the doctor who treated the daughter at Sutter hospital ordered a CT scan because he was concerned about the injuries.
Schlehofer mentioned how Earnest was livid that his daughter would talk back to him. Earnest then allegedly punched her five times, backhanded her in the face, and hit her in the stomach.
Schlehofer told the jury that the alleged fight the daughter had had in school that day consisted of hair pulling and could not have caused the damage that she sustained. Schlehofer pointed to a diagram that illustrated the position of Earnest and the daughter when the incident began in the car. She showed how the injuries on the right side of the daughter’s face are consistent with Earnest coming through the right door of the car to hit her.
Schlehofer went through each of the witnesses’ testimonies to demonstrate the urgency of the incident as it happened. Some witnesses heard “blood-curdling screams.” Others heard intense screaming and they knew something was wrong. Another witness testified that what they heard was urgent and came from a place of fear. Also, it was loud and prolonged.
Schlehofer illustrated for the jury the bodily injuries that the daughter sustained. Officer Russell recalled seeing an alarming amount of blood. The blood soaked through her sweatshirt and was all over her pants.
The daughter told medical personnel that she had pain in her right abdomen and her head. Another doctor testified that she had a swollen nose and upper cheek. Her pain was a 7 out of 10.
Finally, Schlehofer pointed to evidence of prior acts by Earnest. He had been convicted of domestic abuse in the past. Additionally, he had an incident in which he got into a physical altercation with a man in a bus.
Mr. Borruso began his closing statements.
Borruso told the jury that the prosecution has not considered how Earnest’s daughter was acting that day. He mentioned that the police who testified did not have all the facts. They didn’t know about the fight that the daughter had had at school earlier that day. They also didn’t know about how the daughter had a preexisting condition of nosebleeds.
Borruso argued that neither the daughter nor any other witness gave a clear statement of what happened that day.
Borruso told the jury that this was a case of an out-of-control teenager. She had a fight in school. She had also been in two other fights in the last month. That day she was throwing a tantrum. She was cursing and screaming at anyone who crossed her path. She was unwilling to get out of the car, unwilling to walk on her own, and unwilling to accept help with her nosebleed. She continued to call her dad derogatory terms. She was out of control.
Borruso reminded the jury of the witness who called 911. This witness did not see open or closed punches. She did not see hits landing on the daughter. She saw that the minor was kicking and screaming and was uncooperative. She called the police because she saw the blood.
The grandma who came to the house also never saw Earnest punching his daughter. She testified that the child was not responsive to parenting.
According to Borruso, nothing that Earnest did that day was unjustified.
Borruso told the jury that, although Earnest had prior incidents, he took responsibility for his actions each time.
Borruso mentioned how the daughter said that she hated Earnest, implying that she had a motive for her testimony.
Borruso pointed to the daughter’s history of nosebleeds. In 2010 she suddenly had a nosebleed at the hospital. In 2014 she went to the doctor for her nosebleeds. Borruso said that this is something that happens very easily with the daughter.
Borruso mentioned the size of Earnest, claiming that if he had punched his daughter in the face, she would have broken teeth and bruising.
Borruso pointed to what he thought was the most objective evidence in the trial – the injuries, “or lack thereof,” he said. The testimony of the daughter was not consistent with medical findings. The doctor’s exam showed no serious injuries. No bruising, no swelling, no marks. There was nothing in the photos. “If this was a brutal beat down,” Borruso said, “would she look like that?”
While other testimony alleged that her face was swollen, Borruso claimed that it was swollen from her crying. When the swelling went down there was no bruising. Additionally, Earnest’s hands were not covered in blood.
Borruso told the jury that there is only circumstantial evidence. If from this evidence they can draw two reasonable conclusions, according to the law, the jury must select the conclusion that presumes Earnest’s innocence.
One reasonable conclusion, according to Borruso, is that the daughter gets nose bleeds easily or with minimal contact. Contact was made with the daughter during the incident when she was kicking and screaming. The daughter was aggravated and angry that day. Any pain, scratches or injuries were caused by the fight in school.
Borruso pointed out some unreasonable conclusions – that a nosebleed is a great bodily injury. And, that there was a father beating up a child with no purpose, rhyme or reason.
Closing statements will continue tomorrow at 8:30am.