SUPERIOR Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has allowed the prosecution to introduce photos of a child’s injuries when he was taken to the hospital due to his illness.
Defendant Stacey Laniyo, 37, represented by attorney Mark Scoggins, had asked the court to exclude “evidence of the alleged victim’s illness and death,” adding that it is not relevant to the case.
Scoggins also expressed concern regarding the publicity and reporting surrounding the case, which he said was prejudicial against Laniyo for insinuating that the defendant is charged with the death of the alleged victim.
Assistant Attorney General Coleen St. Clair, in response, said evidence pertaining to “the alleged victim’s illness and death is directly relevant to elements of the offense that the Commonwealth must prove and is therefore admissible.”
Judge Camacho, in his order, stated that “these photographs were taken when the alleged victim was taken to the hospital on March 16, 2020 and allegedly show scratch marks, a bite mark and bruises.”
The judge said these photographs are relevant under NMI Rules of Evidence 401 and 402 “as they have a clear tendency to make factual issues more or less probable; that is, whether the alleged victim was harmed or injured by acts of abuse by the defendant.”
Regarding publicity that may be prejudicial, Judge Camacho said: “A limiting instruction will cure any unfair prejudice.”
Judge Camacho will preside over Laniyo’s jury trial, which will start on Monday, June 14.
Laniyo is one of the two women arrested following the death of a 3-year-old boy in March 2020. The other defendant is Lynn Fitial, 45, the mother of the child.
The court has granted the request of the two defendants to have separate trials.
The government charged Laniyo with one count of child abuse. According to the prosecution, the alleged abuse happened on or about March 12, 2020 when Laniyo struck the boy with a tree branch, a broom, or her hand or by biting him, resulting in injury clearly beyond the scope of reasonable corporal punishment and harming or threatening the child’s physical or mental health and well-being.
Fitial was charged with child abuse in violation of 6 CMC 5312(a)(2), made punishable by 6 CMC 5312(c). Allegedly, on or about March 13, 2020, Fitial failed to provide medical care for the boy resulting in his death.
According to the autopsy report, the child died of natural causes and not from the alleged injuries from child abuse.