Defense doubts police credibility in murder case.
July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:52 PM
During closing arguments Thursday, attorney Susan Gaer questioned the credibility of Oak Harbor Police detectives and deflected suspicion to try to punch holes in the prosecutors case against a 22-year-old Oak Harbor man accused of killing an infant on Christmas day of 2000.
Its now up to the jury to decide if these alleged holes in the evidence are big enough to mean reasonable doubt as to Eric Flores guilt.
Flores, an enlisted Navy man, is facing charges of second-degree murder, first-degree assault of a child and second-degree criminal mistreatment in the death of his wifes six-week-old baby boy.
Both sides end strongly
The prosecution and defenses feisty closing arguments took up almost the entire day Thursday. The jury began deliberations at about 4:30 p.m.
The trial revolved around the question of when the baby, Aeriq Flores-Ortego, sustained his fatal head injuries. When it happened will determine who did it. Both sides agreed that the baby was fine when Flores came home Christmas morning after a night of drinking and partying with his friends.
Both sides also agreed that the baby was already injured when Flores brought him to John and Sheryl Simons home to babysit at about 6:15 that night.
The couple awoke the next day to find the baby dead.
Chief Criminal Prosecutor Steve Selby argued that the injury occurred while Flores was alone with the baby. A police officer, a paramedic and a fireman all testified that they responded to Flores home around 2 that afternoon and they saw that the baby was fine. Flores had called 911 after he and his young wife, Crystal, had a fight and she attempted suicide by running a car in the closed garage.
Four medical experts, including renown pediatrician Dr. Kenneth Feldman, testified that the baby died from an acute subdural hematoma, which would have caused the brain to swell and his eye to droop or wander. They all said the symptoms of the severe brain injury would have been immediate and hard to miss.
Experts doubt fall from bed
The experts also agreed that an 18-inch fall from a bed, as Flores claimed happened to the baby, could not have caused the injuries. Pathologist Melissa Li, for example, said the severity of the injury was consistent with a fall of more than 10 feet or a car accident.
On the other side, Gaer pointed out what she called inconsistencies in Detective Jerry Baker and Detective Cedric Niiros testimony and reports. She was critical of them for not taping their interview of Flores, whose testimony contradicted theirs. She said Bakers testimony was a little too reminiscent of Bill Clinton for me.
Gaer suggested that Crystal had injured the baby earlier in the day and that the emergency responders either didnt see the brain-injury symptoms or the symptoms simply hadnt appeared by 2 p.m. She also questioned whether these witnesses really had taken a good look at the baby.
The doctors cant say for sure what type of symptoms a baby would exhibit... she said. The brain doesnt swell at a predicted rate.
Flores testified that Crystal was out of control and acting irrationally the day the baby was injured. He said she had assaulted him in their bedroom. Flores mother, Norma Flores, and a family friend also testified that Crystal had acted violently in the past and was rough with her toddler daughter.
You have to decide beyond a reasonable doubt if the state proved Eric Flores did it, she said. You dont have to decide if Crystal did it, but you must take into account Crystals state of mind and her history of acting out physically.
Yet Gaer had a tough time explaining away other pieces of evidence. The fact that Flores originally claimed that the baby was injured by a fall from a bed, which may be seen as a cover, may be hard to overcome. Flores said he first noticed the babys eye problems after the baby fell off the bed while he was in the shower.
After the medical testimony, Gaer didnt even try to claim that this fall was the cause of the babys injuries.
Oh, what a coincidence, Selby said. What a coincidence that the symptoms just waited to show up at the time the defendant said the baby fell.
Also, Selby may have scored points with evidence that Flores didnt mention the fall when he dropped the baby off at the Simons home that night. Sheryl Simon testified that Flores told her the baby had a cold, which was causing the eye problems.
Then Flores drove home, called his mother and told her about the babys fall and eye problems. He asked her for advice, but he never told the Simons about his concerns.
The medical experts testified that Aeriq Flores may have lived if he had received medical attention that day.
This tragedy may not have happened, Selby said, if Mr. Flores wasnt so concerned about himself, about not getting caught, if he would have taken that poor child to get medical treatment.