After a third trial, Cameron Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder today for intentionally throwing his 4-year-old daughter, Lauren, off a cliff by Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Brown had been kept in Jail for over ten years as the case slothfully inched through the Los Angeles Court system. The first two trials ended up being declared mistrials when jurors could not agree whether Brown was a cold-blooded killer, or a loving father caught up in the tragic accidental death of his daughter. Brown was a 34-year- old baggage handler when he met the mother of his daughter, Sarah Key-Marer, then 26. The two became embroiled in child support and custody matters after they split up. One day, when Brown took his daughter on a hiking venture, they made their way to “Inspiration Point” in Rancho Palos Verdes. At this point, the picture becomes foggy. Brown says Lauren fell to her death accidentally when she slipped and tumbled over the edge as she was throwing rocks while he was resting on a rock nearby. The police interviewed hundreds of people, but there were no actual eyewitnesses other than the defendant. The state relied heavily on emotional appeal and on an autopsy report that in part noted, that the terrain leading to the cliff was too rugged for a 4-year-old to hike voluntarily on. The report opined that her injuries were consistent with an “assisted drop” and not an accidental fall. The state alleged that Brown was upset with his child support obligations, and in that regard would be financially better off if his daughter was dead. Defense experts testified that the fall was consistent with an accident. After one of the first two trials, the jurors were apparently split between involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder.
During the second trial, after jurors had indicated, they were deadlocked on some of the counts, and there was some apparent confusion regarding whether they were deadlocked on the first-degree murder count. The foreperson, when questioned by the judge, Michael Pastor, apparently said they were not deadlocked on this count thereby implicitly saying they did not find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on the murder one charge. This issue and many others are likely to be raised on appeal in this circumstantial and questionable case.
UPDATE: September 18, 2015: A judge sentenced Cameron Brown (53) to life in prison today without the possibility of parole. An appeal is almost inevitable.
UPDATE: An appellate court upheld Brown’s sentence and conviction.