Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dad found guilty of 2nd-degree murder in death of 2-month-old son (Fort Pierce, Florida)

Dad CASEY GROSS has been found guilty of 2nd-degree murder in the death of his 2-month-old son. The baby died from a "catastrophic"skull fracture while Daddy was at home alone with him. As often happens in these cases, Daddy was babysitting while Mom was working.


Man found guilty of baby son's death
Posted: 12/11/2010
Jim Mayfield, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Until the jury's verdict Friday afternoon, about the only thing certain in the weeklong second-degree murder trial was that 2-month-old Brogan Gross suffered a "catastrophic" fracture spanning both sides of his skull before his death.

However, after more than three hours, jurors found Brogan's father, 23-year-old Casey Gross, guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Gross faces up to life in prison on the conviction.

Prosecutors alleged Gross was responsible for inflicting the injury on Brogan in August 2008, though precisely how and when remained a mystery because he was home alone with the child during the time authorities say the injury occurred.

Gross, who took the stand late Thursday, told jurors he inadvertently dropped his son while getting ready to feed him about 8:30 p.m. while his fiancée was away at work. He did not intend to hurt the baby, who was born 13 weeks prematurely, and Brogan did not appear injured by the fall, Gross said.

Later, around midnight, the baby choked on his formula, vomited and stopped breathing. Brogan was pronounced dead in the early hours of Aug. 23, 2008.

Thursday's courtroom explanation was the first time in more than two years that Gross offered any explanation as to what happened that night.

"We know this is not a who-done-it," Assistant State Attorney Bernard Romero told jurors during closing arguments. "That's not even an issue. The issue is what did he do to his baby? The skull did not fracture on its own."

Medical testimony presented during the trial indicated Brogan suffered a significant, powerful impact to his head that caused a "very large, V-shaped, extraordinarily serious fracture" that traversed the top of his skull.

"This was not an accident because of the nature of the injury," Romero told jurors. "This was a killing wound. It's hard to believe that a parent could do that."

Prosecutors did not have to prove intent on the second-degree murder charge, only that Gross' actions were imminently dangerous and without regard for human life.

"To take a helpless baby and hit it so hard it cracked its skull — there are some acts, ladies and gentlemen, that speak for themselves," Romero argued.

However, defense lawyers told jurors the prosecutors' case was far too speculative to convict Gross of murder.

"This is an unfortunate tragedy," said Assistant Public Defender Christina Ledina. "This is not murder. This is not child abuse."

Ledina questioned how such a severe blow required for Brogan's injury — as maintained by the state's medical experts — could be imparted without some other bruising or attending injury and attacked the strength of the medical examiner's testimony.

"Possible is not beyond a reasonable doubt," Ledina argued. "More than possible is needed here. He could not say the instrument or mechanism or how did the fracture get there. He can't tell you that. He keeps giving you guesses."

Though prosecutors argued that Gross lied repeatedly as to what happened the night Brogan died, his lawyers told jurors that fact alone was no basis for a conviction.

After the trial, Romero said prosecutors were satisfied with the outcome but noted the cost.

"Mr. Gross not only destroyed his life, he destroyed many lives in this case," Romero said.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 1.