Wednesday, 17 November 2010

SBS: Califonia: James Lujan

Samantha Yale
November 9, 2010
James Lujan escaped punishment for nearly beating to death the 17-month-old daughter of his girlfriend, only to fatally injure the son of another girlfriend three years later.
That was the scenario Senior Deputy District Attorney Jerry McBeth presented to jurors Tuesday morning in his opening statement for the trial of Lujan, who is charged with murdering 4-year-old Diego Calles, the son of Lujan’s then live-in girlfriend, Meagan Davis, in July 2009.
Lujan’s attorney, David Bixby, shifted the jury’s focus in his opening statement to Davis, who he said has changed her story to investigators and used cruel means of punishing her son.
The process of selecting a jury started Friday and continued and concluded Monday for Lujan, 30, of Lompoc.
Opening statements Tuesday morning were followed by testimony from witnesses for the prosecution.
Lujan is accused of physically abusing Diego for several days before the child died on July 18, 2009. He was arrested hours later.
Emergency medical responders had been summoned to a motel room in the 800 block of North H Street in Lompoc, where Diego, Lujan, Davis and Diego’s 5-year-old sister were staying.
Diego, who was not breathing, was taken to Lompoc Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Lujan is charged with murder, as well as assault on a child causing death and torture in Diego’s death. He also faces abuse allegations involving two other children in separate incidents, and a count of domestic violence against Davis.
She has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of child abuse based on her failure to protect her son. Davis was sentenced to a year in county jail, a year in a residential drug treatment program and five years probation.
The defendant’s trial before Superior Court Judge Edward Bullard in Santa Maria could last more than a month.
McBeth, the case prosecutor, said in his opening statement that the evidence will show that a 17-month-old identified as Lina suffered two fractured collar bones, a black eye and a serious head injury in 2006 — allegedly at the hands of Lujan.
Doctors at the time were unable to pinpoint the exact time the toddler suffered the injuries.
Lina’s mother, Stacy Burns, was convicted of child endangerment and lost custody of the girl.
Three years later, Diego suffered blunt-force trauma so severe that his small intestine was seriously damaged, McBeth said. Injuries to Diego’s fingernails were similar to those Lina received, the prosecutor added.
McBeth said the evidence will indicate that Lujan was angered by Diego’s potty-training problems and speech impediment. He beat the boy over the course of several days, forcing him to stand in a certain posture and kicking him when he was unable to hold the pose, McBeth said.
Davis sustained bruising when she tried to help her son.
Lujan’s attorney, Bixby, countered that the prosecution’s pieces of evidence don’t fit together.
Former neighbors of Davis will testify that they didn’t hear any of the abuse Davis will speak about in court, Bixby said, and that her focus was on scoring methamphetamine.
There will be testimony that Davis bit Diego’s fingers and put him in cold showers as a consequence for bad behavior, he said.
The bruising Diego suffered indicates he was abused over an extended period of time, not just in the last few days of his life as Davis will say, according to Bixby.
“I just ask you respectfully, listen to both sides,” the defense attorney concluded.
The testimony from prosecution witnesses Tuesday centered around the abuse of Lina.
Lompoc police Officer Agustin Arias testified that he responded to the call of Lina not breathing, and saw Lujan standing over the girl with his hand on her chest.
“She was pale, looked like she was turning blue,” the officer said.
“He said that she just fell,” Arias testified. “He was nervous, he was rubbing his face, covering his face.”
Lina’s mother, Burns, fidgeted nearby, he said. She had recently used methamphetamine, heroin and alcohol, Arias testified.
Under cross-examination by Bixby, Arias said that anyone would be nervous in a situation where a child is seriously hurt.
Dr. Steven Reichel, an emergency room doctor, said on the witness stand that Lina’s injuries indicated shaken baby syndrome, and that she was having trouble breathing because her brain was injured.
The trial continues this morning.

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