A judge told jurors Wednesday that a La Quinta man who went on trial earlier this month for the 2003 death of his 2-year-old son was no longer a defendant in the murder case, which is continuing against his wife.
Riverside Superior Court Judge John G. Evans granted a defense motion for acquittal Tuesday and told jurors prior to witness testimony Wednesday that Derrick Brown, 47, was ``no longer a party in this case.''
Defense attorney Richard Verlato argued in his motion that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence to support the second-degree murder charge. His client's 51-year-old wife, Patricia Brown, remains charged with murder and assault on a child causing death.
The couple went on trial July 5, accused of cumulative abuse throughout the eight months that Deetrick Brown, Derrick's child from another relationship, was in their custody, leading to a series of seizures and his eventual death on Jan. 16, 2003.
Verlato argued in the motion for acquittal that prosecutors had failed to show his client had a direct role in Deetrick's injuries, that he failed protect the toddler from abuse at the hands of his stepmother, or that he failed to seek proper medical treatment for his son's seizures.
The Browns were arrested in June 2003 when authorities searched their home in the 51000 block of Avenida Velasco. The toddler died at Loma Linda Children's Hospital about two months shy
of his 3rd birthday. The day before his death, he suffered a seizure that was caused by ``acute and chronic abusive head trauma,'' according to a declaration prepared in support of an arrest warrant.
The seizure was one of several that the toddler suffered between November 2002 and January 2003, despite not having a pre-existing medical condition, according to the declaration, which also cited bruises, a burn on the child's hand and malnourishment.
Deetrick was in the custody of his biological mother until June 2001, when she was arrested on suspicion of child neglect. The boy was then moved to a foster home, until the Browns took custody in April 2002. No injuries were noted by physicians while the child was in foster care, according to the declaration.
``Each time Deetrick suffered an injury and/or seizure, including the fatal injury, 2-year-old Deetrick was in the physical care of Patricia and/or Derrick Brown,'' the declaration states.
According to the prosecution's trial brief, the Browns told medical providers that Deetrick was a ``drug baby,'' mentally retarded and the victim of child abuse while he was in foster care. ``CPS personnel and his foster mother have provided ample evidence that these claims were false,'' the brief states.
The trial has seen a litany of pediatricians, neurologists and other medical specialists appearing as expert witnesses, as attorneys have attempted to ascertain whether the boy's death was caused by consistent physical abuse.
Witnesses from Child Protection Services have also been called to the stand to determine if abuse occurred while Deetrick was in the care of the Browns, his biological mother or his foster mother.
Verlato's motion stated that no evidence had been presented to support the theory that his client directly caused the toddler's ultimately fatal injuries on Jan. 15, 2003, as he was working in Blythe at the time. The defense attorney also argued that the boy's father did not consciously disregard his son's well-being by failing to protect him from alleged abuse by his stepmother.
``The prosecution must not only prove that Derrick knew that Patricia was abusing Deetrick in a manner that he knew would cause Deetrick's death, but also that Derrick willfully failed to act in conscious disregard of the danger of Deetrick being killed,'' the motion states.
Prosecutors filed a memorandum in opposition to the defense's call for acquittal, stating that Derrick Brown ``had a legal duty to protect Deetrick from physical harm and to obtain proper medical treatment for him. He did neither.''
The prosecution also alleged in its response that the father ``deliberately covered up evidence of (Patricia's) abuse by perpetuating lies to law enforcement, medical staff and CPS, and by failing to seek appropriate medical treatment for Deetrick despite having knowledge that his seizures were
The Browns were first charged with murder in 2003, but a judge who presided over a preliminary hearing that October ruled there wasn't enough evidence to proceed to trial.
A decade later, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office and the sheriff's department reexamined the case and submitted new evidence that resulted in the refiling of charges against the Browns.
They were re-arrested on Jan. 16, 2013 -- 10 years to the day of the boy's death.