Cesar Rodriguez — stepfather of Nixzmary Brown, the 7-year-old girl who was subject to persistent physical abuse that eventually killed her — was convicted of manslaughter.
A jury in Brooklyn acquitted Cesar Rodriguez, the stepfather of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown, of second-degree murder Tuesday, but convicted him of a lesser charge, first-degree manslaughter, for fatally beating her as punishment for stealing a snack and jamming his computer printer with toys.
The lower charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison; second-degree murder carries a possible life sentence.
The verdict, reached on the fourth day of deliberations after an eight-week trial, brought an ambiguous end to the first trial in one of the most horrific child deaths in the city’s recent history, one that triggered an overhaul of the city’s child welfare system. Nixzmary’s mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, is to be tried later on murder charges.
The difference between second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter is subtle. In convicting Mr. Rodriguez, 29, of first-degree manslaughter, the jury determined that Mr. Rodriguez had caused Nixzmary’s death by recklessly engaging in conduct that created a grave risk of serious physical injury. To find him guilty of second-degree murder, the jury would have had to determine that he acted with “depraved indifference to human life.”
During the eight-week trial, Mr. Rodriguez’s main lawyer, Jeffrey T. Schwartz, told jurors that though Mr. Rodriguez, who admitted beating Nixzmary regularly, was a child abuser, he was not a killer and that he never thought any of his beatings would cause Nixzmary’s death.
How, exactly, the jury felt that the man who beat his stepdaughter to death — after keeping her tied to chairs, forcing her to urinate in a litter box and feeding her so little that she weighed about as much as your average 4-year-old — did not, without a reasonable doubt, have a “depraved indifference to human life,” I do not know. But apparently, they did.
I have written about this case, and particularly the trial, with disgust. This has been over both the murder of a 7-year-old girl and the defense attorney who defended him by claiming that Nixzmary was a troublemaker who just had to be tied to chairs, and wasn’t actually at an unsafe weight. The guy has been defended by others who think that he is just doing his job, and hey, might have even been using a repulsive defense in order to increase the chances of conviction while not appearing as though he had failed to vigorously defend his client. But interestingly enough, he has repeatedly called for a mistrial, accused the prosecution of “cheating” (with no explanation that I found) and is now promising to appeal the decision instead of convincing his client of the absolute truth, which is that he got a better deal than he deserved and anyone could have reasonably expected.
In the end, I don’t really think that 25 years (assuming that he gets a maximum sentence) is enough. But I am glad to see that this guy’s ass will be going to prison. No one should be allowed to treat anyone this way, particularly a child, and get away with it.
What do you think about the verdict?