A state appeals court panel Wednesday upheld an Alpine man’s convictions of murder and assault on a child causing death stemming from the 2016 death of his girlfriend’s toddler son.
Brett Brown was sentenced in late 2018 to 25 years to life in state prison in connection with the death of 20-month-old Lucas Orlando, who prosecutors said was shaken and beaten by the defendant.
Sheriff’s deputies responded on Jan. 11, 2016, to the home of Brown’s girlfriend, Renee Fournier, where the boy was found gravely injured. Lucas died at a hospital two days later.
While Fournier was at work, Brown was watching the boy that day along with Fournier’s other child and two of his own from a prior relationship.
Brown told emergency personnel that the boy injured himself in a fall, according to the opinion, but investigators concluded the boy’s injuries — which included severe eye, brain and neck hemorrhages, skull fractures and a broken leg — were likely non-accidental.
At trial, Brown testified that he was carrying the boy and a plate of food when he slipped and fell on top of the toddler.
A three-justice panel from California’s 4th District Court of Appeal wrote in its opinion that Brown’s attorneys alleged the trial court should not have allowed evidence of certain injuries to the boy to be presented to the jury.
Those injuries — which Brown was not charged with causing — included a healed broken arm, swollen forehead, swollen eye, bruising and an acute broke tibia, which Brown’s counsel alleged should not have been admitted, as there was no evidence that the injuries stemmed from abuse or that Brown was responsible for those injuries.
The panel wrote, “Information about past injuries was relevant to determining whether Lucas suffered child abuse at all and whether the fatal injuries were intentional.”
The panel stated in its opinion that evidence of those injuries did not prejudice Brown’s case and that medical evidence presented at trial “indicated Lucas’ fatal injuries were part of a pattern of intentionally inflicted abuse.”
While Brown received prison, Fournier also pleaded guilty to felony child endangerment and agreed to testify against Brown. A judge later reduced that conviction to a misdemeanor and she was sentenced to probation and ordered to complete a yearlong child abuse class.
–City News Service
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