An Orange County Superior Court judge declared a mistrial today in the case against a 34-year-old Seal Beach woman charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter and abusing the victim's twin.
The trial was expected to wrap up by next week, and defendant Linda Wilborn, 34, was expected to take the stand to deny killing her 23-month-old twin daughter, Millicent.
However, as first reported by OC Weekly, “Judge Richard Toohey granted the mistrial at the request of Wilborn's defense attorney, who objected to the prosecution entering as supporting evidence a medical article that could indicate the mother of four squeezed Millicent so tightly it tore the little girl's heart.”
On Monday, both Wilborn’s public defender and the prosecutor made it clear in their opening arguments that much of the case would center on the “botched” autopsy report, which overlooked significant details surrounding the cause of the baby’s death, said Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons. Additionally, the coroner’s investigator also nicked the sac surrounding Millicent’s heart as he was examining her. The “botched” autopsy casts doubt about what caused Millicent to die, argued Deputy Public Defender Michael Becker.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey granted the defense attorney's motion for a mistrial when a pathologist told attorneys today that he had come across a medical journal's article that he felt supported his theory on the cause of death of Wilborn's daughter, Millicent, Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons said.
According to the OC Weekly report, prosecution witness Dr. Anthony Juguilon, the Orange County Coroner's chief forensic pathologist, found a medical article, showing that the damage to Millicent’s heart could have been caused if her mother squeezed her with enough force. Simmons introduced the article into evidence, prompting Toohey and Becker to object to the timing of the article, which was discovered two years after Millicent’s autopsy, OC Weekly reported.
OC Weekly quotes Toohey calling the timing of the discovery "problematic," and "substantial concerns" about it prompted the mistrial order. "It's incumbent upon the people to fully investigate the issues before trial," the magazine quoted the judge as saying.
One of the main issues in the trial was whether Millicent was a victim of ``bad CPR'' by her mother as she tried to save the toddler's life, as the defense claimed, or whether the girl was the victim of child abuse.
A juror passed out on Tuesday, prompting Becker to motion for a mistrial, Simmons said. That motion was denied.
Juguilon, testifying for the prosecution, believes Millicent was slammed against a hard surface, causing her heart to fail, Simmons said.
Dr. Duc Duong, who performed the autopsy, accidentally cut the ``pericardial sac,'' Simmons said. Juguilon reviewed Duong's work and came up with the cause of death prosecutors are alleging.
Wilborn married her husband Derrick, an Army recruiter who worked in Long Beach, in 2004, and the couple and their four children lived in military housing in Seal Beach. Their first child, Rachael, was born in September 2006; the twins were born in January 2008; and a son, Nathaniel, followed in May 2009, Simmons said.
Wilborn called 911 on Dec. 17, 2009, reporting that Millicent was not breathing, the prosecutor said.
Todd DeVoe, Seal Beach's emergency services coordinator, was one of the first responders. DeVoe gave the girl a ``rescue breath,'' which showed she hadn't swallowed a toy and her airway was not blocked, but she had no pulse and his attempts at reviving her were unsuccessful, Simmons said.
DeVoe noticed signs of ``unusual bruising,'' according to Simmons, who said investigators also found a ``spot of blood'' from the victim on the carpet.
A social worker also noticed bruising on the chest of Millicent's twin, so he was taken to Children's Hospital of Orange County, where doctors said he appeared underweight and was withdrawn while being treated, Simmons said. The toddler also would fail to make eye contact, a sign of ``emotional neglect,'' Simmons said.
The social worker concluded that ``Garrick was suffering from malnutrition,'' according to Simmons, who said the boy had not gained weight from June 2009 -- the last time he saw a doctor -- until the death of his twin but gained a pound and a half after just six days at the hospital. Garrick also had a skull fracture, the prosecutor said.
Juguilon found Millicent had a bruise on her forehead, cuts to her lip, a cut on the chin and bruises on both sides of her chest and her left shoulder, Simmons said. The girl also had ``many internal injuries,'' Simmons said.
Some of the ribs were broken four to six weeks before the girl's death, and some rib injuries were more recent, Simmons said.
Becker said authorities concluded it was a child abuse case and tried to fit the evidence to prove it.
``This case is a classic rush to judgment. Some of the evidence is just plain made up,'' Becker said, referring to Juguilon's opinion on the cause of death.
``They really don't know ... the cause of death of Millicent Wilborn,'' Becker said, telling jurors that Duong ``botched'' the autopsy.
Becker said Wilborn ``desperately tried to save (her daughter's) life'' before calling police.
Wilborn was principally raised by her grandfather and aunt because her father was a long-haul trucker frequently on the road and her mother abandoned her, Becker said.
Wilborn was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder when she was a child and had trouble managing time, causing her to take showers for hours at a time and stare at the wall, Becker said.
Medication helped, and so did her husband, whom she met when she looked into joining the military, Becker said. Her husband helped her plan out her day with a schedule, and she learned to cope with her disorder through meditation, relaxation techniques, massages and exercise, Becker said.
The two were ``happy, joyful'' when they learned she was pregnant with twins, Becker said, adding they wanted a large family. Months later, Wilborn was pregnant again with the couple's fourth child, Becker said.
However, Wilborn had difficulty managing her obsessive-compulsive disorder as she looked after four children, Becker said.
Her husband would come home late many nights because he was practicing to become a golf pro, Becker said. Wilborn's father offered to pay half the cost of a housekeeper, but the defendant's husband rejected the suggestion, her attorney said, adding that the twins were ``fussy, finicky'' eaters.
A hearing is scheduled for July 6 to set a new trial date for Linda Wilborn.
- The City News Service