By Danielle Silva
In the closing arguments of a child abuse case, the defense and prosecution argued over the validity of the complaining witness and the cause of the petechial rash found on her.
On December 3, 2017, Brian A. Miles had been watching TV when his daughter came up to hug him. The defendant allegedly held her neck between his legs and pushed her down. She pushed the legs away and he put his legs back around her, covering her nose and mouth with his hands for three minutes. The complaining witness shared she had tried to call for help but couldn’t. Later, the complaining witness developed reddish pimples on her face that several doctors diagnosed as petechiae. The defendant is charged with child abuse with the threat of great bodily injury and corporeal injury to a child, with the first count being followed by a lesser count of child abuse.
The prosecution argued that, while the alleged victim was the only one testifying to this happening, she was consistent with the story she told to her mother, grandmother, nurse, and jury – that of being held between the legs and “choked.” In the hospital, the minor shared that her father had choked her, leading to their filing the report. During a Multi-Disciplinary Interview, the complaining witness had repeated that she couldn’t breathe and didn’t believe they were playing. In court, she said she felt like she was falling asleep during the event and cried in court.
Several of Miles’ other children also testified to being physically abused. BM, the complaining witness’s half-sister who had never met her before, stated that at three or four years old she had been strangled six times. She claimed she had a comforter put over her face one time and had been pushed under the water. The complaining witness’ other sister also shared facing that treatment 10-13 times.
In regard to the petechiae, this diagnosis was given by three separate doctors. The petechiae was on both cheeks of the minor, also known as bilateral petechiae. Dr. Matthew Maynard noted that this could develop from the air being cut off and he had seen individuals who have died from suffocation without developing petechiae. As a six-year-old, the defendant could have died. Dr. Angela Vickers, a Medical Director of the BEAR (Bridging Evidence Assessment & Resources) Program at Sutter Health, also argued there could not have been any other causes, as the juvenile did not have any allergies that could have caused the injuries.
The defense, however, pointed out that one witness who was also at the scene saw no child abuse. The defendant’s current wife had been in the home with the daughter and Mr. Miles and had not seen the event. This witness was seen positively by all the other witnesses. In addition, the defense argued the complaining witness’ story did have several inconsistencies. On Dec. 4, 2017, the minor had claimed the defendant had flipped her around and was playing with her before this happened. In a Dec. 4 police interview, the daughter stated her nose and mouth were covered. In the trial, the complaining witness first mentioned being covered by a blanket in addition to the legs and hands. The alleged victim also had used the term “broken blood vessels” very often, which surprised the officer during the interview. Another major point the defense argued was the complaining witness did not understand what telling the truth meant.
There are also various circumstances that surround the family dynamic that might have influenced testimonies. The complaining witness’ sister is very close to her and they have spoken to each other about what happened. The complaining witness’ grandmother also didn’t seem to like the defendant. In her testimony, which the defense pointed out surprised even the DA, the grandmother claimed she had seen the reddish pimples but had not told the complaining witness’ mother.
In regard to the marks, the defense pointed out in May of 2017 that the complaining witness was tested for tomato allergies. While the juvenile received a negative test for tomato allergies, the defense argued that there have been circumstances where allergies could not shown up in the test. Dr. Ryggs, a Sacramento emergency room doctor, had also stated that she saw petechiae everyday and it was a “non-specific finding,” meaning the cause couldn’t be confirmed. The doctor had also noted the minor’s puffy eyes. The defense also showed pictures of the December 2017 petechiae and the May 2017 rash that led the complaining witness being tested, although the rash did not show up in the May 2017 pictures.
In the rebuttal, the prosecution noted that the defense did not talk about Dr. Maynard, who had spent the most time with the complaining witness, and that Dr. Ryggs did not point out any other symptoms concerning a cold. The prosecution argued that the petechial rash was not from an allergic reaction, as there was no blanching and no evidence about the May 2017 incident appeared in court. The defense did not address the testimony from BM. The prosecution also noted that the current wife’s testimony consisted of many “I don’t recall” responses.
The jury was released for deliberation and has yet to reach a verdict.