Sunday, January 6, 2008

Blame Game in Nixmary Trial Looms

You can guarentee I'll be at this trial handing out flyers on shutting down ACS!

Contact me if you want to join us.



Sunday, January 6th 2008, 4:00 AM

Two years ago, New Yorkers were shocked by the story of an emaciated, beaten girl named Nixzmary Brown who was tied to a chair, whipped and killed for taking food from the refrigerator.

This week, as jury selection begins in stepfather Cesar Rodriguez's murder trial, prosecutors plan to replay disturbing scenes from the bloody Brooklyn apartment - the chair where the bound 7-year-old was found, the belt used to beat her, the cat-litter box she had to use as a toilet.

While they rewind the sickening facts - a 45-inch-tall girl weighing 36 pounds with a litany of injuries accumulated over years - the defense will focus on the Administration for Children's Services and the parents' cries for help.

"They asked ACS for help repeatedly," said Rodriguez's lawyer, Jeffrey Schwartz. "It's going to put everyone on trial because everyone failed this girl - the pediatrician, the schools, the cops, the hospitals and ACS."

Schwartz will also point to Nixzmary's mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, 29, who explained away Nixzmary's absences from school by saying she was sick and had trouble getting her six children to school.

"She was the puppeteer that orchestrated this," Schwartz said. "He just got involved in this family. He got in over his head."

Santiago, who will go on trial before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Hall after Rodriguez, says he was the abuser and she was battered into silence.

In any case, the defense won't be easy with the grotesque crime scene photos, the autopsy report, Rodriguez's admissions to cops and evidence of the girl's DNA on his belt and his fingertips.

Prosecutors won't be calling ACS workers, but they will paint a sickening picture of the three-bedroom Green Ave. apartment on Jan. 11, 2006, and little Nixzmary's last days.

Rodriguez claimed he was punishing an unruly child who was hurting other children in the Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment.

He was holding her under cold water in the bathtub, as he said his father had done to him, when he allegedly gave her the fatal wound by hitting her head on the faucet.

"She was giving me a hard time, so I pounded her on her back," Rodriguez later admitted. "Later I placed her in the shower. Then I laid her naked on the bed and told my wife to leave her alone for a while."

He also allegedly abused the girl sexually, but jurors won't hear about that since those charges are expected to be dropped before the trial.

Nor are they likely to hear about the millions of dollars in improvements, added workers and protocols at ACS since Nixzmary's death.

"There's been a complete overhaul," said Gail Nayowith, former head of the watchdog Citizens Committee for Children. "And while the city shares some responsibility for not reacting promptly, ACS did not kill that child."

"Once in a generation there is a tragedy that is so profoundly disturbing to people. This just rattled people [and] this trial should force us to analyze where we are."

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