A judge was visibly affected by the tender pleas of the defendant's child, but Darlene Bright went to prison anyway.
The mother of two shuffled out of Judge Pat Brian's courtroom Thursday, sobbing and cupping her face in her hands. She faces up to five years behind bars and a $5,000 fine.Bright, 34, was originally charged with murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of her adopted son, Kameron. Bright told police the boy had fallen from a bunk bed in her family's West Valley home two years ago.
Several doctors said the child's skull could not have been cracked so severely from such a short fall - opinions the judge pointed to repeatedly during the sentencing.
"The court is convinced this 3-year-old child received some extremely lethal punishment" that night, Brian said.
Kory Bright, 10, asked for mercy for his mother.
"My mom is a good mom to me and my brother. I love her very much. Please don't take her away from me," he said to the judge, who listened intently.
Brian acknowledged the child's words but said he was bound by good reason and the law.
"Nothing can tug harder on a jurist's heart than a small boy pleading for the freedom of his adoptive mother. But I can not and will not retreat from this difficult and perhaps unpopular decision," Brian concluded.
Bright pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of child abuse homicide, a third-degree felony, last March. Prosecutors accepted the deal because of conflicting evidence that might have caused a jury to acquit the woman.
Specifically, doctors couldn't state for sure that the fracture in Kameron's skull was not caused by a fall. One said it was a reinjury of an old break and could have been reopened in a drop from a top bunk.
Defense attorney Ron Yengich said the lack of certainty among the professionals should have caused the judge to question his decision. He suggested probation for Bright.
At the most, he said, his client should have received six months in jail - which was the sentence recommended and approved by both probation officials and prosecutor Charles D. Behrens Jr.
Behrens said he agreed with the relatively light recommendation because Bright passed a lie-detector test after an hourlong interview with him. Results indicated Bright was being truthful about the events leading to Kameron's death.
Nonetheless, the judge said he was convinced, "things happened in that home that night that have not been divulged."
He questioned why Bright and her husband waited as many as five hours to seek medical care for Kameron. Darlene Bright told a nurse at the hospital that the child had been unresponsive for two hours before they brought him to the emergency room, Brian noted.
"It does not ring true that this type of injury would be allowed to go untreated for as long as five hours unless the injury was intentionally inflicted and they hoped against hope that the child would recover," Brian said.