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In Re Marquis H., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. Darnell H.

January 7, 2013


APPEALS from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Laura J. Birkmeyer, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. J518223)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcconnell, P. J.



Darnell H. and R.H. (the parents) appeal an order in which the juvenile court assumed jurisdiction over their son, Marquis H., under Welfare and Institutions Code*fn1 section 300, subdivision (a), based on a risk of serious physical harm. The parents did not physically abuse Marquis, but seriously abused two of their grandchildren, L.M. and T.S., who were also in their custody. The parents contend the statute is inapplicable because it allows jurisdiction based on "a history of repeated inflictions of injuries on the child or the child's siblings" (§ 300, subd. (a), italics added), and Marquis and their grandchildren are not siblings. We conclude the parents have misinterpreted section 300, subdivision (a), and the quoted language is but one example of when the juvenile court may exercise jurisdiction based on physical abuse or the risk thereof. We also reject the parents' challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. We affirm the order.


In September 2011 the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (the Agency) filed a petition on behalf of Marquis, who was then 10 years old, under section 300, subdivision (a). The petition did not allege any direct abuse to Marquis. Rather, it alleged that during the preceding weeks R.H. subjected L.M., who was then 13 years old, to serious physical abuse by burning her with an iron and hitting her repeatedly with an extension cord, a crutch, and a fist. The juvenile court made a prima facie finding on the petition and removed Marquis from the home.*fn2

In January 2012 the Agency filed an amended petition to add the allegation that both parents hit nine-year-old T.S. with an extension cord, causing scarring of his back and left arm; stomped on him, causing a scar on his torso; and hit him with a bat and crutches. Additionally, it alleged R.H. put a lighted cigarette on T.S.'s shin, and the parents made T.S. and L.M. sleep on the kitchen floor for discipline. The court also made a prima facie finding on the amended petition.

A contested jurisdiction and disposition hearing was held over several days in February and March 2012. Dr. Jennifer Davis, a pediatrician with Rady Children's Hospital, testified about her examination of L.M, during which L.M. was "very reserved" and had a "flat affect." L.M. had a laceration near the left eyebrow with bruising around the whole eye, temple, and nasal bridge, and lacerations inside her cheek. She reported the injuries were caused by "being hit with a crutch and a bat." She also had scarring on a finger, which she attributed to being struck by a crutch. L.M. also had a healing laceration to her left ear and a "cauliflower" ear, meaning a permanent "thickening and deformity of the ear" caused by repeated blows, and a healing laceration to her right ear. L.M. reported she had been "hit in the ear so many times." When Dr. Davis asked L.M. who hit her, she said, "[U]sually grandma," but, "[O]ccasionally grandpa is involved," and sometimes Marquis.

Additionally, L.M. had a scar on her left arm and shoulder, which left the partial outline of an iron and individual steam holes. L.M. reported that her grandmother burned her with an iron about a month earlier. Dr. Davis testified that "[a]ccidental burns don't typically leave such a clear and nice outline," and the location of the burn indicated it was not accidental. L.M. also had a hematoma on the back of her left thigh, and she reported it was caused by being hit with an electrical cord several days earlier. Further, she reported that a scar near her kidney was caused by "being hit with a broomstick awhile ago," and a scar to her clavicle area was caused by "being hit with a rubber end of a crutch." Dr. Davis concluded L.M. was subjected to "repeated, severe, longstanding physical abuse."

Dr. Davis also testified she reviewed Dr. Nancy Graff's medical findings for T.S., and photographs of numerous marks on his body. Dr. Graff concluded many of T.S.'s "scars are geometric and are most compatible with being struck with . . . objects e.g., belts or cords." T.S. had linear and "double linear" scars on his back, a scar on the side of his abdomen that appeared to be from a burn, linear marks on his right thigh, and a clear loop mark on the back of his left arm.

Dr. Davis agreed with Dr. Graff's assessment, and added that "[l]inear patterns are usually indicative of being struck with some type of an object." Further, she testified that a loop mark "is absolutely abuse. It doesn't matter what [T.S.] says or anyone else says. A looped mark is a very well recognized patterned injury. There is no real way to get this accidentally." In her view, T.S. sustained injuries consistent with being hit with an electrical cord, a bat, and crutches.

L.M. testified that one morning before school her grandmother punched her and gave her a black eye because she was doing her chores incorrectly. The previous day, her grandmother hit her with a blow dryer and cut her eye. Another time, her grandmother burned her left arm with an iron and sent her to her room in tears. The next day L.M.'s mother came over and the grandmother lied and said L.M. burned herself. L.M.'s grandmother told her not to tell anyone about the burn and to hide it with long-sleeved clothing.

L.M. also testified her grandmother hit her face and body with a crutch almost daily when she did not perform her chores or performed them incorrectly. Further, she said her grandmother "hit me with the extension cord and the broom . . . or my grandpa hit me with the broom in my face." She elaborated that he hit her with the broom handle, which was broken and sharp. She also testified Marquis got angry with her and "got a bat and started hitting me with it," giving her a bloody nose.

Additionally, L.M. testified she saw Marquis hit T.S. with a bat. Further, her grandfather "was hitting [T.S.] with [boxing] gloves back and forth" and T.S. "got choked out." L.M. demonstrated by encircling her hands around the neck of a stuffed teddy bear that she held while testifying. She explained that during the incident her ...

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