Thursday, May 1, 2008
The conviction of Edwin Paredes for child endangerment resulting in serious injury has been upheld by the Iowa Court of Appeals in State v. Paredes. Paredes and his sixteen year-old girlfriend, Cassidy, were the parents of J.M. When J.M. was two months old, her parents noticed that the child was "twitching." Paramedics later determined that J.M. was having a seizure, and he was taken to a hospital emergency room. There, a pediatric intensive care physician diagnosed J.M. with "[s]haken baby syndrome, inflicted trauma." The physician predicted that the baby would have a very strong chance to be deaf, blind, and have significant motor delay if he was able to walk again as well as having continued problems with seizures later.
The hospital thereafter notified the Department of Human Services, and Edwin eventually confessed to shaking J.M., and he later affirmed his confession, albeit with some equivocation. Meanwhile, Cassidy contacted a Department social worker and stated that Edwin was not responsible for the child's injuries. She also stated that she was afraid that she might go to prison when she was eighteen if she said that she shook the baby. The social worker thereafter memorialized the conversation in an e-mail and transmitted it to a detective at the local police department.
Edwin was thereafter charged with child endangerment resulting in serious injury and attempted to introduce evidence about Cassidy's statements to the social worker. The trial court, however, found these statements were inadmissible hearsay which were not covered by the statement against interest exception to the rule against hearsay. On appeal, Edwin argued that the trial court improperly excluded evidence about Cassidy's statements.
The Iowa Court of Appeals noted that for Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.804b(3), the statement against interest exception, to apply, Edwin first had to establish that Cassidy was "unavailable" under Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.804a(1)-(5). The court noted that the only potentially applicable under which Cassidy could have been considered "unavailable" was Iowa Rule of Evidence 5-804(a)(5) under which a declarant is unavailable if she "[i]s absent from the trial or hearing and the proponent of a statement has been unable to procure the declarant’s attendance by process or other reasonable means." The court then found that Edwin did not satisfy this test.
It noted that after J.M.'s condition came to light, Cassidy, a minor, was placed in foster care. Edwin then moved to compel the State to provide him with Cassidy's address. The trial court then ordered the State to make Cassidy available to receive a subpoena, and Edwin subpoeanaed her for his original trial. That trial, however, was rescheduled, and the Iowa Court of Appeals noted that there was no indication that Edwin attempted to subpoena Cassidy again before this second trial. Thus, the court found that Edwin failed to establish that he took reasonable means to procure Cassidy's attendance.
It seems to me that the court held Edwin to an excessively high standard, which seems confirmed by the dissenting opinion. According to the dissenting judge, the trial judge actually found Cassidy "unavailable" and excluded evidence of her statement because it failed to meet the requirements of the statement against interest exception, not because Edwin failed to prove that she was unavailable. The majority opinion never explained why it went against this ruling, and without such a ruling, the majority opinion seems lacking.