Defendant testifies in child abuse case

Mirella Salas Morales

ENID, Okla. — A Garfield County jury deliberated for about 8 hours Tuesday before finding a 29-year-old woman accused of shaking a boy in her care last summer guilty.

The seven-man, five-woman jury delivered its verdict for Mirella Salas Morales and recommended she serve six months and pay a fine.

Morales was accused of shaking a 5-month-old boy in her care May 3, 2018. She was charged with a felony count of child abuse by injury and was held in lieu of bond since. 
She waived a pre-sentencing investigation and is scheduled for formal sentencing Nov. 27. She could have faced up to life in prison and/or a fine of $500 to $5,000 on the felony charge

Tuesday began with Associate District Judge Jack Hammontree announcing to jurors that the state and defense had completed presenting their cases.

The judge then read 50 pages of instructions to jurors and told them the state and defense would being offering their closing arguments.

Assistant District Attorney Micheal Oglesby began by thanking jurors for the time and attention they'd given the state, defense and witnesses in the case.

"We're here because Alan Corona's mom dropped him off on May 3, 2018, a happy, healthy baby boy," he said. "The next time she saw her baby, in her own words, she thought he was dead."

Oglesby recalled the testimony of Enid Police Department Christian Owusu, the first emergency responder to arrive at 806 E. Cedar.

"When he responds to these types of calls involving a child, there's someone outside," Oglesby said. "The defendant wasn't."

He said the officer wasn't sure he was at the right address when he arrived and a knock on the door of the residence went unanswered.

"The defendant testified she was desperate. She was worried. She was looking out the window," Oglesby said. "That is in direct contradiction of what Officer Owusu said."

Oglesby said Morales' story changed the more times she told it. He said this included Corona's behavior that morning.

"She told (Sgt. Derek) Parks she fed him more than normal," Oglesby said. "On the stand, she said he didn't eat as much. Because it fits the narrative of their experts."

Oglesby said the state presented jurors with testimony of treating physicians. He said Corona's lifelong pediatrician, Dr. Michael O'Quinn, testified the boy was healthy and normal with no concerns. O'Quinn agreed with the diagnosis of abusive head trauma.

He said Dr. Robert Fails testified he saw bleeding on the right and left sides of Cornona's brain and said the blood was recent. Fails testified a cerebral venous thrombosis would not cause subdural hematomas and gave Corona's diagnosis as abusive head trauma.

Oglesby said Dr. Farooq Choudhry's diagnosis for Corona was abusive head trauma. He said the doctor testified the diagnosis was easy and clear.

Oglesby said Dr. David Brown testified he ordered tests to rule out other possible causes of Corona's injuries. He said the doctor also testified a person doesn't have to have external injuries to suffer from abusive head trauma.

Alan's pediatric neurologist, Dr. Cherie Herren, said Alan's injures are consistent with abusive head trauma and shaking.

Oglesby asked jurors to consider the credibility of the defense's witnesses.

"How much are they being paid to testify?" he asked. "Who benefits? Where is that bias?"

Oglesby then questioned the doctor's qualifications.

"Dr. (John) Galaznik hasn't seen a pediatric patient since 1980. That's before I was born," Oglesby said. "He's an expert because he's read a bunch articles that fit his narrative. Just because he's read some articles on biomechanics doesn't make him an expert. He's hired to come in here and give an alternate theory."

Oglesby said the doctors called by the state did not decide more than a year ago to call Corona's injuries abusive head trauma so they could travel to Enid for mileage and a $10 witness fee.

Oglesby also told jurors the defense's other expert witness, Dr. Joseph Scheller, was not even board trained.

"What does he do three days a week?" Oglesby asked. "He preps to be an expert witness."

He told jurors the state had proven the elements of the case over the past six days.

"The state does not have to prove the defendant grabbed and shook Alan," he said. "The injuries had to come from somewhere. 'Oh, I tried to revive him.' She shook him 10 out of 10, with an effort."

Oglesby told jurors he would submit to them the state has proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The defendant is guilty. Guilty of shaking and injuring Alan Corona," he said, asking jurors to consider the full punishment range in the case. "Think about the lifelong effects Alan Corona is going to have because of the actions of the defendant."

Morales' attorney Tim Gungoll also thanked jurors for their service at the start of his closing argument.

"Everyone feels bad about Alan's situation and what happened to him," he said. "He suffered a terrible injury, and everyone feels bad, including my client."

He said the state failed to prove it's case against Morales.

"They did not prove Mirella committed a willful act to inure that child," Gungoll said. "We know Detective Parks did not get the full story."

Gungoll told jurors the case agent failed to talk to others who had contact with Corona leading up the events of May 3, 2018. He also said police failed to go back 72 hours to see if anything occurred to cause the boy's injuries.

"Mirella testified he was having a seizure and difficulty breathing approximately three hours after he was dropped off," Gungoll said. "There were no signs of external injury. Their own witnesses contradicted each other."

Gungoll said Brown previously testified at preliminary hearing that Corona had retinal hemorrhaging in both eyes but testified at trial there were only hemorrhages in one eye.

"Which one is right?" Gungoll asked. "Are we going to hold him criminally liable?"

Gungoll said there were communications issues between Morales and police but the state was "totally discounting" that.

"The state offered no evidence how you can only get retinal hemorrhages on one side," Gungoll said.

He contended it was impossible to tell the past from a few images from CT scans or MRIs.

"They have no evidence she shook this child," he said. The symptoms in this case are the classic symptoms of a stroke."

He said Scheller asked how it was possible to only shake half a brain.

"They have not been able to provide an answer," Gungoll said. "There is nothing to dispute her (Morales') version. There's nothing to dispute her finding this child having a seizure."

Gungoll told jurors there was room for doubt in the state's case.

"The holes in this story are doubt," Gungoll said. "The injuries being consistent with stroke are doubt."

He questioned Owusu's characterization of his client when he arrived at her home.

"She was scared to death," he said. "She was in shock."

Gungoll told jurors they were being asked to presume his client did it.

"These cases are full of narrative," he said. "Narrative is something you make up to convict a person."

Gungoll said, "The prosecution failed to produce any eyewitness evidence of Mirella abusively shaking that baby."

"Think about what you are being asked to assume," he said. "That's doubt. They didn't look any further. Should they have looked? You'll be able to rule on that."

Gungoll also asked jurors to consider the doll police used in their interview with Morales.

"They asked her to take it, move it, shake it. Why did they do that?" he asked. "They wanted to create a story, a narrative. They did it to create bias. The reason they gave it to her was to make jurors think she shook this child."

Gungoll told jurors the state failed to explain how Morales was responsible for Corona's injuries.

"No one knows exactly what happened to this child. Where's the evidence?" Gungoll asked "Based on the evidence and the doubt, based on that I am going to ask you to acquit."

He asked jurors that if they did find Morales guilty, to sentence her to a year in county jail.

Assistant District Attorney Sean Hill told jurors in his rebuttal that child abuse was not a crime often witnessed firsthand.

"How often do you think someone is standing right there when a child is shaken?" Hill asked. "This happens behind closed doors."

Hill said three doctors testified the injuries suffered by Corona would have shown symptoms within an hour.

"She put herself alone with Alan Corona from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.," Hill said.

He said during her interview with police, Morales said Corona was "fine."

"She testified he ate less than normal," Hill said. "A year and a half ago, she told police he was eating more than normal. Why is her story different? What changed in her testimony? The way Alan behaved. Does she have a bias in this case?"

Hill also noted Galaznik's research into his field stopped with reports published after 2012.

"That's alarming," he said. "How can you trust his opinion?"

Hill asked jurors to consider the full range of punishment and to keep in mind Alan Corona likely will never be the same again.

"What is justice for Alan Corona?" Hill asked.

He asked jurors to sentence Morales accordingly.

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Rains is police and court reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @cassrains.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Cass? Send an email to crains@enidnews.com.

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