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Noakes v. Virginia

Supreme Court of Virginia
699 S.E.2d 284 (2010)


Facts

Elizabeth Noakes (defendant) ran a day-care service from her home. For three weeks, Noakes had been watching Noah Colassaco, a 15-month-old child who had difficulty getting to sleep. While other children slept, Noah stood in the crib and cried. One day, Noakes put Noah in the crib for a nap in an upstairs-loft bedroom. Noah had been standing and crying for about a half hour when Noakes devised a plan: if Noakes could get Noah into a sitting or lying position, Noah would fall asleep. Noakes placed a cardboard cover on the crib to prevent Noah from standing upright. Noakes next placed a dog crate weighing over 33 pounds on top of the cardboard. Noakes shook the crib a few times to see if the cover was stable. Satisfied that the cover was secure, Noakes left the loft at 1:00 p.m. Three hours later, Noakes returned to the loft and found Noah unconscious in the crib. Noah was standing, with his head and neck wedged between the cover and the crib. Noakes and emergency-medical personnel could not revive Noah. After a bench trial, the court convicted Noakes of involuntary manslaughter. The court found that Noakes had acted recklessly and indifferently. The court of appeals affirmed, upholding the trial court’s conclusion as reasonable and noting that Noakes could have foreseen the danger in placing a heavy dog crate across the crib of a baby who often stood and cried. Noakes appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, claiming that Noakes did not act with criminal negligence and could not have foreseen the actions taken by Noah in the crib.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Kinser, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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