Father Found Guilty of Murder for Throwing Daughter From Cliff
A third jury convicted a father of murdering his 4-year-old daughter by throwing her from an ocean-side cliff just outside Los Angeles. The crime occurred in November 2000, but two previous trials resulted in mistrials after juries deadlocked on the issue of guilt.
Prosecutors presented evidence indicating Cameron Brown never wanted his daughter, Lauren Sarene Key, and threw her from the 120-foot cliff as revenge on the girl's mother and to avoid paying child support.
What Took So Long?
Brown has been in jail since 2003, and faced two previous trials from Lauren's murder. Both of those trials resulted in deadlocked juries, meaning the jury could not come to a unanimous verdict. A hung jury results in a mistrial, in which case it is up to prosecutors if they want to retry the defendant. The prosecutor's in Brown's case decided that another attempt at conviction was appropriate, but what made this trial different?
As in the previous two trials, jurors heard evidence that Brown wanted the girl's mother, Sarah Key-Marer, to have Lauren aborted, and that Lauren's injuries were not consistent with those from an accidental fall. The most recent jury heard new evidence that ended up making the difference. According to ABC News:
Jurors heard most of the same evidence as previous juries, but this time, Los Angeles sheriff's Detective Jeffrey Leslie bolstered proof of a financial motive by finding someone to testify that Brown said it would be "nice to get rid of Lauren" to avoid paying $1,000 a month in child support, Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum said.
This time, the jury took less than two days to reach a guilty verdict.
What Will the Punishment Be?
California's first degree murder laws require a sentence of life imprisonment without parole or death for homicides involving special circumstances set by the California Penal Code. In this case, jurors found the special circumstances applied because Brown both intentionally killed his daughter by laying in wait, and he killed his daughter for financial gain.
Brown's official sentencing is expected to occur on June 19, and when the judge inquired about the date, Brown replied, "Judge, I'm innocent, I have no comment."
- Father guilty of murder for throwing daughter off cliff (USA Today)
- Criminal Trial Overview (FindLaw)
- Blueford v. Arkansas: Double Jeopardy Inapplicable in Mistrial (FindLaw's Supreme Court)
- What Is a Retrial? When Can You Get One? (FindLaw Blotter)