LOS ANGELES – A defense attorney for a man accused in the torture killing of his girlfriend’s 8-year-old son played a videotape Monday showing the defendant crying as evidence of his remorse, while a detective testified that suspects also cry out of fear of consequences to themselves.
Isauro Aguirre, 37, is charged with murder with a special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture in connection with the May 2013 death of Gabriel Fernandez.
The boy’s mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, will be tried separately on the same charges.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against the two.
Detective Elliott Uribe, who testified earlier in the trial for the prosecution, was called by the defense to answer questions about three interviews he conducted with Aguirre on May 23, 2013 — the morning after Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were sent to the family’s home in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a call that the boy wasn’t breathing. Gabriel was declared brain dead that day, then taken off life support two days later.
Uribe testified earlier that he hadn’t seen Aguirre crying in videotaped portions of interviews played during the prosecution’s case.
Defense attorney Michael Sklar played other videotaped segments of those interviews, in which Aguirre could be seen repeatedly using his hands and shirt to wipe tears from his eyes and covering his face with his hands.
At one point, Aguirre can be heard saying, “I just want to go see (Gabriel).”
Both sides accused the other of misleading the jury as to Aguirre’s emotional state by selectively editing portions of the interviews. Sklar asked to play the videotapes in their entirety for the jury, something the judge had already ruled against during pretrial motions.
On cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami asked Uribe whether suspects sometimes cry about their own predicament, out of fear for the consequences.
“Yes,” Uribe said.
On re-direct, Sklar got the same answer to a question about whether suspects sometimes cry out of remorse.
Over Sklar’s objections, Hatami also asked Uribe during his cross- examination about the nature of Gabriel’s injuries.
“They were the worst injuries I’ve ever seen on a child,” said Uribe, who has worked for the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau for 10 years.
During testimony earlier in the trial, a senior deputy medical examiner testified that BBs had been recovered from the child’s body during an autopsy, including one in his lung. The examiner said that in addition to blunt force trauma to his head, several patches of the boy’s hair had been torn out, his face was swollen, four of his teeth had been knocked out and his feet had been burned. He had numerous rib fractures, some new and others in the process of healing, and was suffering severe malnutrition at the time of his death.
Hatami told jurors in his opening statement that the youngster was beaten and systematically tortured because Aguirre believed the child was gay.
Another of Aguirre’s attorneys, John Alan, acknowledged during his opening statement that his client committed “unspeakable acts of abuse” against the boy before “exploding into a rage of anger.” But the defense contends that Aguirre never meant to kill the 8-year-old.
The boy’s death triggered investigations into the county’s child welfare system and resulted in the filing of criminal charges of child abuse and falsifying public records against two former county social workers and two of their supervisors, who are awaiting trial.
Previous related stories: