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Name: In re A.M.
Case #: D056196
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 09/11/2010

There was sufficient evidence to support jurisdiction where the father admitted causing the minor’s death. The parents’ infant son, James, died in 2004. Four years later, an investigation was reopened concerning James’s death because of allegations by the mother that their father had punched, kicked, and smothered the minors with a pillow when he was frustrated or to keep them quiet. The father admitted to pushing James against a pillow, and knowing that he was having difficulty breathing because of the pillow. He admitted to causing James’s death, and the cause of death was changed from “accidental” to “undetermined.” A section 300, subdivision (f) petition was filed which alleged that the father had caused James’s death. The court concluded that when a parent recognizes a risk to a minor and has the ability to intervene but does not, the parent contributes to the cause of death. The petitions were found true and the minors were removed. On appeal, the father challenged the sufficiency of evidence to support the jurisdictional findings. He contended that the court should have discounted his admission that he caused the death because it was made years after James died, and after coercion by investigators. Further, he said there was no medical evidence to support the court’s findings, and therefore the statements were unreliable. The appellate court rejected the arguments and affirmed. The evidence was sufficient to support the juvenile court’s finding that the father caused the death through neglect because he heard James struggle and did not take any action. The juvenile court did not need to make findings that the father posed a risk to the minors under the language of section 300, subdivision (f). The appellate court also declined to reweigh the evidence concerning the credibility of the father’s admissions.