A tearful jury for the first time yesterday saw Cesar Rodriguez's videotaped statement, in which he described beating little Nixzmary Brown and throwing her to the floor in the hours before the child died.
Also yesterday, a mistrial motion was made by the defense, but was denied by State Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Hall.
During the video's screening, a court officer handed tissues to some jurors, who dabbed their eyes after again seeing crime scene photos of Nixzmary's bruised and bloody body.
Speaking in a flat voice that lacked any trace of emotion while being questioned in the video by Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Linda Weinman, Rodriguez told how his stepdaughter Nixzmary, 7, got two massive black eyes.
"She managed to do that to herself," said Rodriguez, 29, who is on trial in Brooklyn State Supreme Court for second-degree murder.
Rodriguez said the glassy-eyed child moaned "oh, oh, oh" as she lay on the floor without medical attention.
The video statement of Rodriguez has been publicized before, during pretrial hearings in his murder case. It was also played in court without the jury present last week. But yesterday, with the testimony of Det. Steven Sneider, was the first time the jury had a chance to see and hear Rodriguez describe the deteriorating relationship he had with his stepdaughter that finally escalated to more beatings in the hours before she died on Jan. 11, 2006.
Rodriguez admitted that after Nixzmary said she broke his computer printer, he took her into the bathroom and stuck her head under a faucet of cold water in the tub. He said he struck her head but denied hitting it against the faucet.
Prosecutors say Nixzmary died of child abuse syndrome and a brain injury. They believe Nixzmary's head was hit against the tub or faucet.
But defense attorney Jeffrey Schwartz has said there is evidence that Nixzmary's mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, 29, admitted beating her daughter's head against the tub.
During cross-examination by Schwartz, Sneider said that Santiago gave a statement to police in which she admitted causing the black eyes seen on her daughter by giving her a beating in the weeks before the child died.
"The defendant's videotaped statement, as all of his statements, are very powerful," prosecutor Ama Dwimoh said outside the courtroom. "They come from the mouth of Cesar Rodriguez, where he calmly, coldly, talks about how he beat Nixzmary Brown."
Dwimoh said while both Rodriguez and Santiago, who is to go on trial in the spring, are accused of killing Nixzmary, "it doesn't really matter who did what; they acted together."
Schwartz said outside court that it isn't surprising jurors were moved by the video.
"These are good people who have compassion and felt for a child. ... Everybody should feel for Nixzmary Brown," he said.
Nixzmary jury sees stepdad's videotape statement -- Newsday.com