The fate of a Pawtucket father is now in the hands of a jury after closing arguments in the murder trial of Jorge DePina, who is charged with killing his 10-year-old daughter Aleida back in 2013.
DePina’s defense attorney argued in his final statement to the jury that DePina may be guilty of a crime in his daughter’s death, but only in his failure to get her medical treatment while she was dying of a perforated small intestine.
“Jorge DePina is criminally responsible for the death of his daughter,” defense attorney John MacDonald said. “It’s just not the charge they want. It’s not the charge of murder.”
The state is asking for a 1st-degree murder conviction, but the jury will have the option to convict DePina of the lesser charges of 2nd-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.
“The state did not prove through Jorge DePina’s actions that he committed murder,” MacDonald said. “The state proved through Jorge DePina’s inactions that he committed the lesser included offense of manslaughter.”
Special Assistant Attorney General Shannon Signore told the jury there was no doubt DePina committed premeditated murder, replaying the videos of abuse DePina inflicted on his daughter in the days and weeks before her death.
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In one video, as Signore described, “He grabbed her from behind the neck, slapped her in the face grabbed her with his other hand and said, ‘do you want me to kill you?’”
DePina was speaking Cape Verdean Creole in the videos, and English translations were provided to the jury.
He was also depicted whipping Aleida in the videos, and forcing her to do repeated exercises while her head was wrapped in painter’s tape.
The Medical Examiner’s office determined that Aleida DePina died of a perforated small intestine caused by blunt force trauma, and former Chief Medical Examiner Christina Stanley testified during the trial that the injury was “inflicted,” not an accident.
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Signore said DePina was with Aleida during the entire 12-24 hour time period before her death that doctors believe the injury was inflicted. Signore said DePina covered up the alleged murder by changing Aleida’s vomited-covered clothing, and suggested she had been dead at least an hour when he finally brought her to the hospital, because she was declared deceased “with lividity.”
Defense attorney MacDonald agreed that DePina was delayed in bringing Aleida to the hospital while she was suffering from the perforated intestine, but said that would only amount to manslaughter. He contends there is no proof that DePina dealt the blow that caused the perforation.
“You have a monumental leap from Jorge DePina causing these injuries, [to] he must’ve done the perforation.”
The key witness for the defense was Maria Cruz, who was friends with DePina back in 2013 and says she saw the aftermath of Aleida DePina falling off her bike two days before she died. Cruz said Aleida told her the handlebars had gone into her stomach.
Cruz had to be subpoenaed to the witness stand, because she said she no longer wanted to testify for the defense after prosecutors met with her and showed her the videos of DePina abusing his daughter.
In closing arguments, Signore called Cruz’ testimony “completely fabricated,” pointing out that the autopsy did not show any scrapes to Aleida’s knees, shins or palms that might be typical from a bicycle fall.
“You want a benchmark for someone who’s lying?” Signore asked the jury. “You just look at Maria Cruz.”
If convicted, the prosecution plans to seek a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.