People v. Walkey

223 Cal. Rptr. 132 (1986)

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People v. Walkey

California Court of Appeal
223 Cal. Rptr. 132 (1986)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

Frederick Walkey Jr. (defendant) and his wife, Alicia, lived in the same home with Walkey’s intimate partner, Ellen Cosby, and Cosby’s two-year-old son, Nathanel. One afternoon, Cosby went out shopping, leaving Nathanel in the care of Walkey and Alicia. While Cosby was out, three visitors came to the home looking for her. Each visitor observed Walkey carrying Nathanel, who was wrapped in blankets and appeared motionless. Soon thereafter, Alicia alerted the visitors that Nathanel had stopped breathing. Medical responders arrived and found that Nathanel was not breathing and had no pulse. Nathanel looked like he had been severely beaten; he was covered with bruises, and his abdomen was distended. At the hospital, an examining physician further observed bite marks and a fractured rib. Nathanel’s cause of death was associated with a severe penetrating blow to his abdomen, which crushed and tore open his intestines. A pathologist opined that the injuries were nonaccidental. The state (plaintiff) charged Walkey with first-degree murder and child endangerment. At trial, evidence of Nathanel’s various injuries, old and new, was introduced. The bite marks on Nathanel’s body matched Walkey’s dental impression. Walkey admitted to biting Nathanel but claimed that Nathanel had bitten him first. Walkey maintained that he had never beaten Nathanel and that the child had stopped breathing for unknown reasons. The state introduced testimony from a medical doctor that Nathanel was a battered child and that individuals who fit a certain profile were more likely to commit child abuse, known as battering-parent syndrome. According to the expert, one of the most important attributes of a battering parent was that the person himself had been abused as a child. There was evidence before the jury that Walkey had been beaten and bitten by his stepfather as discipline when Walkey was a child. The jury convicted Walkey of first-degree murder. Walkey appealed, challenging the admission of evidence relating to battering-parent syndrome.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lovett, J.)

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