On September 10, 1993, a mother brought her 56 day old baby girl to the emergency room at Saint Luke’s Hospital in New York for treatment. The hospital staff were horrified at what they discovered. The small baby had several broken bones. She had a spinal fracture of her of her right arm that was evidence of a severe twisting action with enough force to break both bones. She had eight broken ribs. Some of the ribs showed evidence that they had begun to heal. The staff determined that those breaks were about two weeks old. Some of the broken ribs were fresh, within days before being admitted to the hospital. Both of the infant’s large leg bones, the femurs were broken. Both of the small leg bones, the tibias were broken. Both of the baby’s ankles were broken. The baby had a fractured wrist, and her left arm was fractured at the ulna. The hospital staff notified social services and the police department.
The police officers and social service workers arrived at the hospital. The social services workers took custody of the infant and eventually placed her in kinship foster care. The police officers arrested both of the parents for child abuse and neglect. When questioned about what happened, the father advised the officers that the day before the mother took the baby to the hospital, he had been giving her a bath. She had begun to slip under the water and he grabbed her by the arm to prevent her from drowning. The mother stated that the day before she took the baby to the hospital, the father had approached her and told her that he was afraid that he had injured her while giving her a bath. Neither of the parents took the baby to the hospital to be checked out at that time. The mother waited until the following day to take the baby into the hospital to be checked out.
The parents contend that the child was not injured to the extent that the hospital records state. They claimed that they had two well-baby checkups performed at their doctor’s office which did not detect any broken bones or any other injuries. They claim that the hospital personnel are mistaken. They further made a motion to the court to have the criminal charges against them transferred over to family court for handling. Family court has the ability to have any case transferred to it that it feels would best be served by being handled in a civil fashion rather than a criminal one. The standards that are evaluated to determine if the case would best be served by transfer to family court are straightforward. The entire purpose of the family court is to protect and provide for the children. The court recognizes that some cases are not best served by being transferred to family court.
Some cases are too heinous to be handled in family court in either Queens or Staten Island. The court contends that this case is one of them. Serious cases that involve the level of abuse that has been observed in this case, as well as homicide and numerous other cases are more appropriately handled at the criminal level. Criminal court is designed to punish offenders of criminal statute. Civil court is designed to offer alternative rehabilitation to the family unit by using family court processes which are civil in construction. The court determined that it is important to send a message to all persons who may consider striking out against an infant that if they use force against a child, they will be sent to prison. In this case, the child was in the custody of both parents the entire 56 days of her life and the ridiculous excuses that they presented for the cause of the child’s injury require criminal court review. The request to have the case transferred to family court was denied.
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