Setbacks for defense in Nixzmary trial

February 11, 2008 3:31:58 PM PST
The defense in the Nixzmary Brown murder trial suffered two major setbacks Monday.First, a judge denied a motion to allow Nixzmary's mother to testify, claming she is the real killer. And on a more emotional note, the medical examiner testified that Nixmary suffered a lifetime of abuse.

Eyewitness News reporter Tim Fleischer has the latest.

Nixzaliz Santiagot walked into the courtroom and stood just 10 feet away from her husband. She didn't say a word to him. She didn't even look at him. Because he wants to put her on the witness stand.

Santiago, facing the same murder charges as her husband, appeared Monday in Cesar Rodriguez's trial for a special hearing to determine if she can be called to testify.

"The point of this hearing was to see if she should go in front of the jury," defense attorney Robert Abram said. "But once the judge was satisfied that all she would do in front of a jury was to take the Fifth Amendment, she said she doesn't have to go in front of the jury."

Facing questions from Rodriguez's attorney, Santiago refused to answer on grounds it would incriminate her. The judge ruled she could not be called to testify.

Defense attorneys are accusing Santiago of causing the death of the couple's daughter, Nixzmary Brown, by delivering a fatal blow to her head.

"Nixzaliz Santiago is not the only source of information that we believe will exonerate our client," defense attorney Jeffrey Schwartz said.

But Rodriguez admits to beating Nixzmary and tying her to a chair as punishment, what prosecutors claim was child abuse.

"Nixzmary Brown was in a medically compromised state of health," prosecutor Ama Dwimoh said. "And that the injury that she sustained killed her."

Prosecutors are closing their case with testimony from the First Deputy Medical Examiner, Dr. Barbara Sampson.

"She suffered from Child Abuse Syndrome, a constellation of abuse," she testified. "The bruising, the beatings, being bound, that stress, that pain is sufficient to cause death."

Blunt force trauma to the head, Sampson said, exacerbated her death.

"Nixmary Brown had been dead for a significant amount of time," Dwimoh said. "She also laid in an unconscious state for a significant amount of time."

As defense attorney Jeffrey Schwartz prepares to begin his case, another potential witness could be his own client.

"If he were called to testify, which is not a decision we have made thus far, I think he really would present himself well," Schwartz said.

Santiago's trial will follow Rodriguez's.