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Name: People v. Moncada
Case #: E052612
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/16/2012
Summary

The phrase “who is under eight years of age,” contained in Penal Code section 273ab, applies the child’s age to the date of the assault, not to the time of death. Appellant was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child homicide after inflicting serious injuries on his then three-month-old son, who died almost eight years later. On appeal he made numerous challenges to his conviction, many relating to the interval between the infliction of injuries and the child’s death. Affirmed. Appellant argued that Penal Code section 273ab could not be applied to him because the child was more than eight years old at the time of death. Section 273ab provides that a person having the care or custody of a child who is under eight years of age, who assaults the child resulting in death, is punishable by imprisonment for 25 years to life. The phrase “who is under eight years of age” applies the child’s age to the date of the assault, not to the time of death.

A heightened showing of proximate cause is not required to create criminal liability for involuntary manslaughter where the death occurs more than three years after the unlawful act. Penal Code section 194 provides a rebuttable presumption that the killing was not criminal if death occurs more than three years and one day after infliction of the injury which results in death. Appellant argued this established a heightened burden of proving proximate cause. Here, the jury was instructed to find every element of the crimes, including proximate cause, true beyond a reasonable doubt. As this is “the highest standard of factual certainty,” the Court of Appeal rejected appellant’s contention that section 194 required an even higher standard.

In denying appellant’s motion to acquit, the trial court did not fail to consider the rebuttable presumption that a death occurring more than three years after the defendant’s act was not criminal. Appellant alleged that in denying his motion to acquit based on insufficient evidence, the trial court failed to consider the rebuttable presumption that his act was not criminal because the child died more than three years after the injurious act. The trial court specifically found that the prosecution had rebutted the presumption that the death was lawful, however, so there was no error.

The child’s death was a direct and proximate consequence of appellant’s criminal act. The medical evidence established that the child died from complications resulting from multiple instances of blunt force trauma inflicted by appellant. This provided sufficient evidence for the trial court to deny appellant’s motion to acquit. Further, the ultimate rupture of the child’s stomach, from which he died, was not an independent supervening cause as it was a foreseeable consequence of appellant’s acts.