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Defense, prosecution rest cases in Yara Perez retrial

By Denise Olivas
Published On: Oct 11 2012 08:24:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 06:26:02 PM CST

ABC-7's Denise Olivas reports.

EL PASO, Texas -

The retrial of Yara Perez is nearing its end. 

Thursday afternoon, defense and prosecution attorneys rested their cases, but not before calling more witnesses to the stand. 

Perez is facing capital murder and injury to a child charges in the death of her 3 year old daughter, Jacqueline Gonzalez. 

Her boyfriend at the time, Frank Castaneda, was convicted in 2010 for Jacqueline's death, and is currently serving a life sentence in prison. 

Defense attorneys, Joe Spencer and Patrick Lara called Dr. Arthur Ramirez to the stand. Ramirez is a court-appointed psychiatrist who met with Perez several times between June 2008 and May 2012. 

Dr. Ramirez said Perez fit the profile of a person suffering with battered woman syndrome. He said Perez feared for her life and was controlled by Castaneda. 

The defense has been arguing that point since Wednesday with a previous witness. 

The day Jacqueline died, November 19, 2007, Perez went home after work to see her daughter covered with bruises, but claims she was too scared to ask Castaneda about the injuries. 

After seeing her injuries, Perez still left Jacqueline with Castaneda the same day. 

Dr. Ramirez was shown photos of Jacqueline's autopsy. 

Prosecutor Penny Hamilton asked Ramirez, "is that, sir, consistent with battered woman syndrome?" 

"Yes ma'am, it is," said Dr. Ramirez. 

Later Ramirez added, "this woman is not malingering, lying or making up stories to make her situation seem worse. Her emotions were real." 

Hamilton questioned Ramirez's ability to know whether someone is lying or not. 

He maintained that he could tell when someone is lying. 

Prosecution went on to say that the night of Jacqueline's death when authorities were called out to her Lower Valley apartment, Perez denied the existence of her child. 

Ramirez reiterated that too is consistent with battered woman syndrome. 

After a brief recess, Castaneda's former girlfriend took the stand, but the judge would not allow her to testify in front of the jury. 

Diane Potter described the year and a half that she dated Castaneda. 

She said he was he was very aggressive, physically and verbally abusive. 

"I got beat almost everyday," said Potter, even while she was pregnant. 

As Perez heard the testimony, she started to sob, wiping her tears away with a tissue. 

Perez was visibly emotional during Potter's testimony. 

She recounted the times Castaneda slapped, punched and even pushed her against walls when they lived together.  

Defense attorneys asked the judge to reconsider her testimony, but it was denied. 

After lunch recess, Spencer called a certified forensics examiner from New Mexico to the stand. 

Dr. Karen Griest said she reviewed the autopsy report written by El Paso County Medical Examiner Dr. Juan Contin. 

Griest said she found problems with the report because it didn't specify all the injuries found on Jacqueline's body.  

She said she measured the width of Castaneda's knuckles and said it was consistent with pattern bruising on the little girl's body. Perez's knuckles were also measured. 

Prosecution asked about the rest of the bruises that were not in a pattern form on the little girl's body. 

At that point, photos of Jacqueline's body were shown to the courtroom once again. 

Dr. Griest said the rest of the bruising could have been caused by injury with an object. 

She did agree with Dr. Contin's report that Jacqueline died due to physical abuse. It was a blow to the back of the abdomen that caused her death. 

A prosecutor asked, "If she got medical attention at all, would she have survived?" 

"The likelihood of her surviving would be poor," said Dr. Griest. 

Dr. Griest was also questioned about her certification in Pediatric Forensic Pathology after she stated there is no board certification for that specialty, adding she trained for only a year during a fellowship. 

Griest said she has conducted up to 1,000 autopsies in her career.   

Wednesday and Thursday Perez's attorneys argued that she was a victim of an abusive relationship and lived in fear of her boyfriend, Castañeda.  

In a rebuttal, the prosecution called a witness to counter some of the statements made earlier by the defense's wintess' who said Perez fit the profile of battered woman syndrome. 

Stephanie Karr, Director for the Center Against Family Violence was called up to the stand. She also spent about 13 years with the Child Crisis Center. 

She agreed with the defense's experts that abusive relationships are a cycle, but that's where the agreement ended. 

Karr said has come in contact with many women trying to get out of a violent relationship. 

"A large motivating factor to seek help is the violence impacting their children. A majority of women who come into our center display protectiveness towards their children," said Karr. 

Perez's attorney, Spencer, asked Karr if she had ever come into contact with his client.

She answered no and said she had no prior knowledge of the case. Spencer also pointed out that Karr was not a doctor or psychiatrist in family violence. 

After both sides rested, Spencer asked the judge to drop the capital murder charge -- the judge declined. 

Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday morning.

 

 

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