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Name: People v. Valdez
Case #: C031612
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/30/2001
Subsequent History: Review granted 5/2/01 (S095660)

Editor’s Note: Review granted. A conviction for felony child endangerment and enhancement for child endangerment resulting in death were reversed where the court instructed, and the prosecutor argued to the jury, that the necessary mental state was met by proof of criminal negligence. Appellant Valdez was the mother of a baby who died of head injuries sustained while in her boyfriend’s care. The case against her was based on the repeated “coincidental” injuries to the baby during the time she lived with her boyfriend, Lebron, and the testimony of friends and acquaintances who had urged Valdez not to leave the baby with Lebron. Willful felony child endangerment requires that the accused must act or fail to act with the intent or for the purpose of placing the child in a situation where there is serious danger to the child. Therefore, the accused must be subjectively aware of the danger. There is no “criminal negligence” mental state for this offense, and the trial court therefore erred when it instructed pursuant to CALJIC 9.37. Since the prosecution’s theory against Valdez was based on criminal negligence, it cannot be said that the misinstruction did not contribute to the verdict, and reversal was required. [Editor’s note: The boyfriend’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter was affirmed in the unpublished portion of the opinion.]