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People v. Pointer

California Court of Appeals for the First District
151 Cal. App. 3d 1128 (1984)


Facts

Ruby Pointer (defendant) was the mother of two young children, Jamal and Barron. Pointer followed a strict macrobiotic, low-calorie diet and made sure her children did as well, despite repeated warnings from various doctors of the dangers of such a diet for children. Doctors asked Pointer to stop the diet for both herself and her children and to cease breastfeeding. Pointer refused to listen, and eventually, she brought Jamal to Dr. Rao, who had him admitted to the hospital, because he was near death due to malnutrition. Even during Jamal’s hospitalization, Pointer would sneak him the dangerous macrobiotic food. Once released, Jamal was placed in foster care. Pointer subsequently abducted Jamal and went to Puerto Rico, where she was later arrested. Upon the family’s return to California, doctors found that both children were severely underdeveloped, and Jamal had experienced permanent brain damage, resulting from the forced diet. Pointer was charged and convicted of violating Penal Code § 273 and § 278.5, which punish the infliction of physical or mental suffering on children within a person's custody. Pointer was sentenced to five years of probation, participation in a counseling program, exclusion from visits with her children, and a condition that she not conceive a child during the probationary period. Pointer appealed, arguing that the prohibition on conception was an unconstitutional infringement upon her fundamental rights to privacy and procreation.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Kline, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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