A Brooklyn jury found Nixzmary Brown’s stepdad guilty of second-degree manslaughter this morning but exonerated Cesar Rodriguez of second-degree murder charges in a horrific case of child abuse that ended the 7-year-old’s life, shocked the city, and raised serious concerns about the city’s child welfare agency.
From the Associated Press:
Evidence in the nearly three-month-long trial in state Supreme Court included grim crime scene photos from the room where Nixzmary Brown was bound to a chair, starved and forced to urinate in a litter box. More than once, court officers passed out tissues so weeping jurors could dry their eyes.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Ama Dwimoh displayed a large photo of the victim’s body — bruised, topless and splayed on a wooden floor in the family’s ramshackle apartment — as she stood in front of the defense table and berated Rodriguez.
“You battered a little girl who weighed 36 pounds,” she said last week. “When she was on the floor in that room you imprisoned her in, you turned your back.”
Gazing up at the photo, she argued: “There is nothing that 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown could ever do to deserve that.”
Despite the emotion surrounding the case, defense attorney Jeffrey Schwartz stuck to a bold strategy of casting Nixzmary’s mother as the real killer, labeling her “Mommy Dearest.”
He also portrayed the victim as a violent and uncontrollable “little Houdini” — a reference to her supposed knack at slipping out of the makeshift restraints devised by her parents to keep her from attacking her younger siblings.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 18, 2008