COA affirms father’s convictions stemming from daughter’s injuries

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a St. Joseph County man’s claims that the trial court abused its discretion regarding the admission and exclusion of certain evidence at his jury trial for charges related to injuries to his infant daughter.

In Valentin Escobedo v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1202-CR-60, Valentin Escobedo was charged with murder, Class A felony battery and Class D felony neglect of a dependent after his two-year-old daughter was admitted to the hospital with significant injuries that left her brain dead in December 2008. M.E. had a history of sustaining injuries while in the care of her father dating back to December 2006. She had been removed from her parents’ home on several occasions but returned to their care.

When harvesting M.E.’s organs for donation, doctors discovered other injuries to her organs, ribs and bones. The autopsy ruled her death a homicide.

The state wanted to introduce evidence of injuries M.E. sustained in 2007 as it had originally filed charges based on injuries sustained in 2008, but the trial court rejected the state’s motion to amend. That evidence could be admitted if Escobedo’s witnesses opened the door to it. The trial court also allowed a defense witness, Dr. Peter Stephens, to testify on a limited basis regarding the injuries M.E. sustained to her liver and pancreas.

Escobedo was convicted of the neglect and battery charges and sentenced to 53 years. On appeal, he argued the trial court abused its discretion by excluding Stephens’ testimony regarding his opinion that M.E. suffered from a metabolic bone disease.

“Given the factors in Vasquez (v. State, 868 N.E.2d 473, 476 (Ind. 2007)), and our review of the record before us and the specific facts of this case, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing Dr. Stephens to testify while limiting his testimony,” Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote. “Here, the trial court weighed the nature of Dr. Stephens’s proposed testimony – which was medical and technical in nature and included topics about which the medical community was in disagreement – with the timing of the filing of the notice – which did not allow the State sufficient time to refute that medical testimony by conducting additional medical testing or by obtaining additional experts to testify – along with the fact that any issue regarding M.E.’s bones had been known and available for a minimum of one and one-half years since (wife) Kristina’s trial.”

Escobedo also claimed that the admission of rebuttal testimony by the state regarding injuries M.E. suffered in 2007 was inadmissible 404(b) evidence. While he was testifying, Escobedo mentioned the injuries in relation to M.E.’s prior removal from the home and denied he was responsible for her injuries.

“Here, Escobedo’s testimony that he was ‘done wrong’ left the jury with a false impression that M.E. was wrongfully removed from his home by DCS. Thus, his testimony opened the door to the State’s introduction of evidence to rebut this false impression. Because Escobedo opened the door with his testimony, Evidence Rule 404(b) did not bar admission of evidence of relating to M.E.’s injuries in 2007 that led to her removal by DCS,” Pyle wrote.

The judges also found that Escobedo’s sentence, for which he received the maximum on both counts, is not inappropriate



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.