Let's see. Daddy was babysitting his 3-month-old daughter, was drunk, and suddenly that baby is dead and bleeding out of her eyes, nose, and mouth. But the medical examiner says the death can't be explained. RIIGHT. No wonder Mom is angry. There is no justice here for this baby at all. Daddy gets to plead no contest to a risk of injury charge in exchange for one year in jail.
Mom: No Justice After Baby’s Death
by Jodie Mozdzer Sep 16, 2010 4:30 pm
Rodney Lee Brown, whose 3-month old daughter was found dead in his apartment last year, will spend one year in jail after pleading no contest to a risk of injury charge.
He was sentenced Thursday at Superior Court in Derby.
Court officials initially expected Brown to face more serious charges, such as manslaughter, in connection to the death of Alayziah.
But when the medical examiner’s autopsy report declared her cause of death as “Sudden Unexplained Infant Death,” it left prosecutors without a case to prove he directly caused her death.
Judge Burton Kaplan, in an emotional sentencing Thursday, said he had to base the sentence on the provable facts at hand.
“If he couldn’t be charged — although it’s tragic — I have to sentence him based on the charge he pled to,” Kaplan said.
That charge — risk of injury to a child — is a felony charge that covers any offense where a person puts a child at risk.
Brown was sentenced to seven years, suspended after serving one year in prison, and a four-year probation period.
He will have to undergo DNA testing because of the felony conviction.
‘Alayziah Deserves Justice’
Kristi FitzGerald, the baby’s mother, was not satisfied with the sentence — or the entire investigation.
In her statement in the court, FitzGerald called on the judge to vacate Brown’s plea and give her time to hire an attorney to conduct another investigation into Alayziah’s death.
“I feel this was a half-done investigation,” FitzGerald said, through tears. “Alayziah deserves justice and as of right now I do not believe she is getting any.”
FitzGerald disputed the official cause of death, saying that when she arrived home the night of Sept. 10, 2009, Alayziah was bleeding out of the eyes, nose and mouth.
“A child does not unexplainably die and then bleed from three of the four orifices in her head,” FitzGerald said.
FitzGerald argued against the state’s recommended sentence, which would have sent Brown to prison for three years. Kaplan’s sentence reduced that suggestion to one year in jail.
“She was only here for three months,” Fitzgerald said. “Three years in jail is not sufficient to make up for the lifetime of enjoyment she will miss.”
‘He’s Hurting Too’
Brown spoke for the first time about the incident Thursday. He denied hurting the baby.
“I told everyone I would never do anything to my daughter,” Brown said. “Never, never, never.”
Brown said he has been unable to properly mourn his daughter. He didn’t get to go to her funeral and doesn’t even know where she is buried.
“Alayziah was also my daughter,” Brown said in his brief statement to the court.
His aunt, Audrey Adside, and his public defender Paul Eschuck, also spoke on his behalf.
“He’s hurting too,” Adside said.
Eschuck said that while Brown was drinking the night of Alayziah’s death, the medical examiner’s report indicates that he was not responsible for it.
“It was coincidental,” Eschuck said. “It happened that she suffered from SIDS while he was watching her.”
Eschuck acknowledged the difficulty for a family to lose their child.
“I hope the court can see the other side to that. It’s his child too,” Eschuck said. “If it’s hell to lose your kid, it’s even more hell to lose your kid and wake up in jail” being blamed for the death.
There were ten court marshals in the court room Thursday, after emotional outbreaks at several previous court hearings involving this case.
The case has been stressful for both sides.
FitzGerald and her family said they have felt left out of the process, and didn’t believe the charges were serious enough. Because FitzGerld has other charges pending in the court, all her communication with the prosecutor’s office was directed through the victim’s advocate, according to prosecutor Paul Gaetano.
Meanwhile, Brown and his family said they faced threats and the cloud of suspicion throughout the process.
The sentencing was completed without incident.
“No matter what I do here, nobody is going to be happy,” Kaplan acknowledged before handing down the sentence. “All I can do is the best I can taking into consideration the provable facts before me.”