This story came from: http://www.dailyranger.com/By Alicia Giuffrida
A somber, tearful mood prevailed in the Hot Springs County
Courthouse Friday morning when opening arguments and witness testimony began in the murder trial of Andrew John Yellowbear
Yellowbear, an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho tribe, is accused of abusing to death his 22-month-old
daughter, Marcela Hope Blackburn in Riverton.
He faces the death penalty if convicted
of the July 2, 2004, death termed by an emergency room physician “the most severe case of child abuse I have ever witnessed.”
The child’s mother, Macalia Blackburn, has pleaded guilty as an accessory to the crime.
The trial was
moved from Fremont County after a successful motion by Yellowbear for a change of venue.
Fremont County Deputy Prosecuting
Attorney Tim Gist was first to address the all-white jury, selected just an hour before opening statements began.
The courtroom lights were dimmed, and a projection screen filled the room with an image of happy, healthy Marcela
Hope Black-burn, eating an ice-cream cone in a photo taken just two months before her death.
“This is how Marcela
looked in the early weeks of May 2004, when she was living with her foster parents,” Gist said.
The image changed, and the mood shifted all at once. A close-up photo of the dead child’s face now assaulted
the jurors: eyes and cheeks blackened with bruises, open red sores all over her face and around her mouth.
case is solely and exclusively about Marcela Hope Yellowbear, who had the grave misfortune to
have her life and well-being placed into the hands of her parents,” said Gist.
Jurors began wiping tears
from their eyes.
From an early age, Marcela was in custody of her great-grandmother, Ruby Blackburn, who turned care of
the child over to Macalia Blackburn’s cousin, Littlehawk Blackburn, and his wife Leah Lonebear.
and Lonebear took care of Marcela for over a year, but when Littlehawk decided to move to be with family in Colorado, Ruby
Blackburn returned the child to Macalia Blackburn and Andrew Yellowbear. When Littlehawk Blackburn came back to town and tried
to see the girl he considered his daughter, the door was slammed in his face.
A month later, the child was brought into
the emergency room with an astounding number of injuries, no longer breathing.
Gist and defense attorney Vaughn Neubauer
told this same story in their opening arguments, and Littlehawk Blackburn confirmed it in witness testimony a few minutes
Defense implicates mother
However, when Gist described the details of Marcela’s abuse, he implicated
Yellowbear, and when Neubauer spoke, he sounded as though he were a prosecutor in the imaginary case of State of Wyoming vs.
“This is a case about a mother who killed her daughter,” Neubauer said.
Gist said specifically
that the cause of death determined in the child’s autopsy was “complications of repetitive, abusive blunt-force
injuries.” Yellowbear, seated in the court in a button-down shirt and tie, looked at each picture of his dead
child as Gist detailed her injuries: bruises and sores all over her body, a hole in the base of her chin, black eyes, a broken
arm, third-degree burns to her right hand, and deep sores in her buttocks.
Though the child died after Macalia Blackburn
suspended her from a closet rod by her suspenders, Gist said, “There was nothing around her neck. The pathologist who
conducted the autopsy found no evidence suggesting Marcela’s suspension in the closet was the reason she died.”
Neubauer disagreed, echoing defense arguments presented at Yellowbear’s preliminary hearing.
asphyxiated to death in the closet,” he said, telling jurors that the pressure of suspender straps on either side of
her neck and the position of her head caused her to suffocate.
Yellowbear was not home when Blackburn suspended her in
Yellowbear faces four charges: two that accuse him of directly perpetrating the abuse, and two that accuse
him of acting as an accessory to Macalia Blackburn’s abuse of Marcela. Jurors have a choice between deciding Yellowbear
committed the abuse, finding him guilty because he aided and abetted Blackburn in committing the abuse, or finding him not
guilty of either.
Littlehawk Blackburn was first witness to take the stand, confirming the narrative
of Marcela’s early life related by attorneys in opening statements.
He testified that when he left for Colorado,
he gave Ruby Blackburn explicit instructions not to return Marcela to Macalia Blackburn because she was living with Yellowbear
“Either one by themselves was fine, but not together,” he said.
Attorneys did not ask him to explain
what he meant by that statement, nor why he had concerns.
Blackburn stated that when Marcela was returned to her
parents against his wishes at the end of May, she was in good health with no physical injuries.
Friday was former Riverton Memorial Hospital emergency room nurse Robin Walker, who with noticeable emotional difficulty went
through a series of photos she had helped police take at the hospital the night Marcela died.
Arrival at hospital
recalled that when Macalia Blackburn brought Marcela to the hospital and nurse Kathy Swan carried her into the emergency room,
“I immediately knew the baby had been beaten. You could just see it in her face.”
She described in further
detail the injuries she had found, including unusual bumps and soft spots on the baby’s head, many sores and bruises
of various ages, and areas that looked and smelled “rotten.” She also testified that bandages on Marcela’s
right hand were not clean and did not seem to have been placed by medical professionals.
One of the documents introduced
for exhibit by prosecutors was an anatomical chart on which Walker had written down all of the
injuries she saw on Marcela.
Around a blank anatomical figure of a child were many marks and lines leading to corresponding
descriptions of the injuries. Also on the page was an anatomical figure of an adult, also with markings.
When Gist asked
her why there were markings on the adult, she paused to collect her emotions. Through tears, she choked out: “Because
I ran out of room on the baby’s.”
Physician Bradley North, who was on duty at Riverton
Memorial the night Marcela died, testified over defense counsel’s overruled objections, “This is the most severe
case of child abuse I have ever witnessed.”
He described resuscitative efforts made in the hospital, and some of
the signs that led he and physician Thomas Rangitsch to determine she could not be saved, including unusually dry eye membranes
and pupils that did not respond to light.
He also testified that an ace bandage on her arm was not the type of bandage
a doctor would have used to treat her broken upper arm, and that her right fingers appeared to have immersion burns under
their bandages: burns possibly caused by dipping her hand in hot liquid.
Defense attorney Diane Lozano asked both Walker
and North about infantigo, a superficial skin infection that she suggested might account for the sores on Marcela’s
North said that in his opinion, the marks around her lips could have been a severe case of infantigo, but other
sores on her face were not consistent with the infection.
Witness testimony continues Monday at 8:30 a.m. in the Hot Springs
Severe abuse perpetrated
over the course of two months that culminated in the death of Marcela Hope Yellowbear began with the 22-month-old’s
father forcing her to stand for hours on end in front of a television set in a cramped Riverton apartment. His motive?
‘I can’t wait until you die’
Searing testimony heard Monday at Yellowbear trial
He didn’t believe the child was his.
Wyoming legislature commits an anti-child act in broad daylight
By Jordan RiakMarch 14, 2002
Linked below are letters to Wyoming Governor Geringer from Eric Kanter, M.D., Charles F. Johnson, M.D., Jordan Riak, Jeff
Charles, Jimmy Dunne, Mary Lansing, Benny Wasserman, Theo Wells, Eric Perlin, Connie L. Perry, Ph.D., Christa Hargraves, Chris
Dugan, Misty Melvin, Wally Phillips, Laurie A. Couture, M.Ed.
Also see a letter of criticism to Jordan Riak from Wyoming Representative Ann Robinson and Riak's reply.
With more than 3 million children reported abused or neglected each year, the U.S. ranks among the worst societies
in this regard. While other advanced nations actively promote healthful child rearing practices, and give children the normal
protection under law that every other class of citizen takes for granted, the United States seems stuck in an earlier era
when children were chattles and loved best when out of sight. It takes a gruesome multiple murder of babies like the Yates
case to get our attention, to prompt us to think, if only briefly, about the awful vulnerability of children. But from the
moment the perpetrator has been found guilty and sentenced, we feel absolved of any further responsibility for children. No
need to inform ourselves about the root causes of the killer's behavior so that we can take steps to prevent recurrences.
No need to ask how she was mistreated as a child so that we can learn how to protect others. If, when she was little, her
innocence was pumped full of crazy theories about sin and damnation, and if she was whipped black and blue until she permanently
lost the capacity to think or behave rationally, we insist this is none of our business. We look the other way. But now, grown
up and having produced and destroyed a family of her own, this killer mom has caught our attention. But all we see is a lawbreaker,
and for that we have the perfect solution. After all, you don't think we've been building and staffing all these fine new
prisons for nothing, do you?
Speaking about solutions, let's look at Wyoming.
The legislature of Wyoming has just come up with a novel solution to the child abuse epidemic: Senate File 74 (Senate Enrolled
Act 46). This law makes it okay for a parent to bruise a child. It lowers the standard of acceptable treatment of children
to such an extent that unless a parent causes a child to be hospitalized, "abuse" hasn't occurred. In effect, the lawmakers
have declared child abuse non-existent. George Orwell couldn't have foreseen this.
The day will come (sooner than they think) when the legislators of Wyoming will be old and frail, and their grown children
will be looking after their needs. Let's hope, for the parents' sake, that their children's standard for 'reasonable' treatment
of the elderly is a higher standard than the one Senate File 74 establishes for the treatment of the young. But don't count
on it. Experience teaches that usually we get what we give -- in the parlance of computer programmers, "garbage in, garbage
out." Senate File 74 is garbage legislation: it was created by child abusers for the protection of child abusers. Governor
Geringer should have vetoed this dangerous and shameful legislation before it harmed somebody.
Message to Project NoSpank's list, March 16, 2002
First, to readers who wrote to Wyoming Governor Geringer urging him to veto legislation that would legalize
the bruising of children, thank you! Your letters are excellent. I plan add a few more of them to www.nospank.net/file74.htm
shortly. They'll serve as a model and a spur to others who still haven't written. If bruising children becomes legal in Wyoming,
and the consequences become apparent -- which inevitably they will -- the governor will bear the responsibility equally with
the foolish authors. He won't be able to claim he didn't know. Your letters nullified that alibi. Some readers have written
me to requested the exact wording of the legislation in question or a link to it. I apologize for not giving that information
in the first place. Here is the relevant excerpt under heading "14-3-202 Definitions" See below. The new, especially slippery
language is underlined. Following the excerpt is a link to the full text on the Wyoming government site.
ORIGINAL SENATE FILE NO. 0074
ENROLLED ACT NO. 46, SENATE
FIFTY-SIXTH LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WYOMING
(B) "Physical injury" means [death or]* any harm to a child including but not limited to disfigurement, impairment
of any bodily organ, skin bruising if greater in magnitude than minor bruising associated with reasonable corporal punishment,
bleeding, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma or substantial malnutrition;
* The words "death or" have been struck.
The complete text is at http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2002/enroll/sf0074.pdf
I will update www.nospank.net/file74.htm with the above information.
Where to write:
Governor Geringer's e-mail: email@example.com
ask for the Governor's office
Casper Star-Tribune Letters to the Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign my Guestbook
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