Monday Jul 28 2008
Nanny dismissed in shaken baby case
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
Toddler’s family says civil suit pending
The case against a nanny accused of fatally shaking a toddler was dismissed Monday morning. Deputy District Attorney Karin Bjork told Judge Robert McElhany that the prosecution was dismissing the case against Veronica Martinez Salcedo because they did not feel they would be able to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of Salcedo’s alleged guilt. Salcedo was charged with assault causing the death of a child in the May 2006 death of 15-month-old Hannah Rose Juceam. The prosecution contends that Hannah died as a result of brain injuries caused when Salcedo shook the toddler. The defense argued that a virus, and ultimately a stroke, caused Hannah’s death. Salcedo has been tried twice. The first trial ended in October with the jury stuck at a 10-2 vote in favor of guilt. The second trial ended in June with the jury “hopelessly deadlocked” at 9-3 in favor of acquittal. Upon hearing the news via translator that she would not face a third trial, an immediate smile spread across Salcedo’s face. She thanked Defense Attorney Mary Beth Acton and began to cry. “She started crying like I did,” Acton said outside of the courtroom Monday. “She’s happy.” Acton said the family is unsure of what will happen next for Salcedo. There is an immigration hold on Salcedo, which means she may be deported to Mexico. Acton said Salcedo is entitled to a hearing, but Acton will not be involved in the process. Salcedo has been separated from her two children for the past two years while incarcerated during the course of the two trials. “Her kids grew up without her,” Acton said. “It’s very sad for all parties.” Acton said she believes one of the key pieces of evidence in the case was the defense expert’s interpretation of autopsy slides. Outside of the courtroom, about 10 Salcedo family members and supporters gathered to exchange tearful hugs. “We’re just really happy,” said Lorraine Chavez, a close friend of the Salcedo family. “But this is a no-win situation anyway.” At a press conference shortly after the prosecution’s announcement, District Attorney Brad Fenocchio explained the office’s decision. Deputy district attorneys Bjork and Jeff Wood as well as Scott Juceam, Hannah’s father, and Juceam supporters joined him. “It was a very tough decision,” Fenocchio said. Fenocchio said the office reviewed the facts of the case and the presentation of those facts in making its decision. “We have to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 people,” Fenocchio said. “While we may be convinced and the defense convinced of their argument, we didn’t think we could find 12 people to agree.” Bjork said she thought the medical testimony was one area of difficulty for the jury. She said the outcome is “extremely” frustrating. “Mrs. Salcedo caused the injury,” Bjork said. Juceam spoke on behalf of his family and conveyed their disappointment at the outcome. “It’s terribly, terribly sad,” Juceam said. “Justice was not served today for our community, for our daughter. For that we’re terribly disappointed.” Juceam said he has a great respect for the District Attorney’s Office, but his family will pursue the matter in other legal forms. Juceam said the family is in communication with immigration services to find out whether or not they can serve Salcedo with a wrongful death civil suit they filed May 13 in Placer County Superior Court. Juceam and his wife, Lorena, are the subject of a temporary restraining order filed in June by Acton. In the order, Acton states that threats from Juceam have caused her to fear for her life. Juceam argues his family has never threatened anyone and has no ill will toward anyone involved in the case. “This is not the end of our quest and mission,” Juceam said. “This is the beginning of our mission to help future victims, to advocate for them and educate them.” He said his family would continue to spread the message of the Hannah Rose Juceam Foundation, “Don’t Shake Your Baby.” “Everyone knows who Hannah Rose Juceam is and I say ‘is’ and not ‘was’ because she’s here with us,” Juceam said. “We honor her as parents who’ve lost a child.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment.