A state appeals court Wednesday overturned the child-neglect conviction of a man whose girlfriend’s 4-year-old son fell down a flight of stairs and suffered severe head injuries.
The 17-page ruling by a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal ordered an acquittal for Angel Medina, who had been convicted in Polk County of a charge of neglect of a child causing great bodily harm.
The court said Medina in 2013 was babysitting the 4-year-old, identified only by the initials J.A., when the boy fell down a flight of stairs and suffered traumatic brain injuries.
The ruling said Medina was in a lower level of the home playing video games when J.A. asked if he could come downstairs. After being given permission, the boy began running down the stairs but fell, was knocked unconscious and stopped breathing.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the appeals court said there was insufficient evidence to find criminal neglect by Medina and that “to hold otherwise would impose a significant risk of criminal liability on all parents or caretakers of small children who allow children in their care to use the stairs” in houses or apartments.
“In closing, we are obliged to state that we neither approve nor condone Mr. Medina’s conduct as described in this opinion,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Douglas Wallace and joined by judges Nelly Khouzam and John Badalamenti. “The stairs in his residence were steep and unfinished, and the hand railings were inadequate. The exercise of ordinary prudence would suggest that an excitable, 4-year-old child should be assisted or – at the least – supervised while ascending or descending such a flight of stairs. Nevertheless, we are not persuaded that Mr. Medina’s failure to supervise or to assist J.A. under the facts shown here rose to the level of willful or culpably negligent conduct.”
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.