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Defense Analysis: Raisa Bernabe Manslaughter Arrest in Parkland, Florida

Raisa Bernabe, a 44 year old mom from Parkland, Florida, was arrested this week for manslaughter, delivery of a controlled substance to a minor and knowing sale or transfer of prescription drug to an unauthorized person.

She has already been released on bond in the amount of $21,000.

Bernabe was arrested for allegedly poisoning her 4 year old son to death with sleeping pills. According to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office, toxicology testing showed that the boy died from an overdose of eszopiclone, which is a prescription sleeping aid marketed under the name “Lunesta.” The medical examiner’s office also claims that the boy’s autopsy revealed that he ingested ibuprofen, oxycodone and oxymorphone shortly before he died.

In a statement Bernabe made to police, she admitted to giving her son a Lunesta pill because he was having trouble sleeping for at least two days in a row. Bernabe also claimed that she found the boy in her room near several opened prescription pill bottles after she had administered the Lunesta.

During a search of her apartment, police found 68 prescription pill bottles, which were nearly all prescribed to the boy’s father, Allan Odze, a retired police officer from New York. It has also been reported that Bernabe suffers from emotional problems and has even been hospitalized. It is presently not known whether or not she has any prior criminal history.

A Broward defense lawyer, I am not surprised at all by the Broward State Attorney’s Office decision to charge Bernabe with these offenses. Their filing decision is consistent with the case filing philosophy applied by this particular State Attorney’s Office.

For those that may recall, a young boy was recently charged with manslaughter for accidentally shooting his best friend with his mom’s gun. That boy ultimately plead guilty and was sentenced to probation.

However, I do agree that filing manslaughter charges against this mom was wrong. She is not a criminal, she is an idiot. She is also a grieving parent who has to live the rest of her life knowing she killed her son.

In the absence of evidence that proves mal-intent or homicidal ideation, Bernabe should only be prosecuted for child neglect, if anything. I also maintain that it would be wrong to sentence her to prison. In fact, it would be utterly outrageous. If anything, she should be given a short term of probation.

However, I will agree that the toxicology report is a bit disturbing, and I am not talking about the Lunesta. I am referring to the oxycodone and oxymorphone that the boy allegedly ingested before he died.

What were the circumstances surrounding those pills? Did the boy raid mom’s medicine cabinet when she wasn’t looking? Did idiot mom concoct a mixture of Lunesta, oxycodone, and oxymorphone?

What does the evidence show?

If mom did feed this child a homemade concoction of pain medication and sleeping pills, I agree, she should be prosecuted. In a sense, I would equate such actions to someone who shakes a baby to death out of frustration because the child will not stop crying.

Any normal adult, who is mentally competent, would know better than to feed a 4 year old prescription pain medication and sleeping pills.

However, if the evidence in this case proves that Bernabe administered one Lunesta pill to her child in a moronic effort to help him sleep, in my mind, that is quite different from a maniac mom that feeds her kid a homemade concoction of oxycodone, oxycmorphone, and Lunesta.

I say this, because criminal intent can be inferred from the toxicology report and other evidence. How much Lunesta was in the boy’s body? Is that amount consistent with the administration of one pill or 50 pills?

Clearly, if Bernabe gave her son 50 Lunesta pills, she was trying to make him sleep a bit longer than overnight. In that case, first degree murder charges might even be appropriate.

Regardless, at the end of the day, the point is that a full case analysis must be done and a case filing decision by prosecutors must include a wise appreciation for the true nature of the offense. Criminals should be prosecuted one way and idiots who act with neglect should be prosecuted another.

By all accounts presently reported in the news, it seems like prosecutors have no proof that mom fed the baby a massive or mixed pill concoction. Therefore, we must presume that this case concerns an accidental, albeit neglectful, death.

I believe that if the victim’s input could be obtained, the boy would not want to see his mother prosecuted or sent to prison.

Hopefully this family will heal from this tremendous loss and true justice, based on wise and intelligent decision making by law enforcement, will prevail.

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