The defense attorney for a Daly City man accused of dropping his 17-month-old son into a hot oven told the jury that the second- and third-degree burns inflicted on the child’s lower legs were “explainable as an accident.”
Mara Feiger broke into tears during her closing arguments in the San Mateo County Superior Court trial of Gregory Colver, 20, who is on trial for felony child endangerment and felony child abuse with a special circumstance of causing great bodily harm. Colver has been accused of trying to teach his son a lesson about the dangers of a hot stove by dangling him above an open range in their Daly City kitchen on December 28, 2010, and dropping him on the hot oven rack when the boy began to squirm.
The boy was taken to Seton Medical Center with multiple vertical and horizontal burn marks, each about two or three inches long, on the sides and backs of his lower legs. The defense maintained that the boy — who was prone to climbing on the oven — managed to hoist himself on top of the stove, turn on the range, and then fall, burning his legs on the heated inner racks and a cookie sheet on the way down.
“It is a three-dimensional environment and this is a kid in motion,” Feiger said, pleading with the jury to move beyond the emotional impact of seeing graphic photos shown by the prosecution of multiple fresh burns on the boy’s legs and understand that accidents happen. “There are lots of accidents that happen with children that don’t involve criminality,” Feiger said.
The defense also sought to unravel Colver’s confession, which he made to investigators while he was in custody on Dec. 30. Feiger said the investigator in charge of “interrogating” Colver was “icky” and a “cowboy,” and that the confession only came about from the use of questionable interviewing tactics on a sleep-deprived, overly suggestible Colver.
Deputy District Attorney Shin-Mee Chang said that the confession — in which Colver said he “just lost it” and held his son above preheated oven racks to teach him a lesson about hot surfaces — was legitimate, and that suggesting any scenario in which the child managed to inflict the injuries upon himself was unreasonable and just “grand speculation.”
Chang recalled the testimony of Dr. Marc Levsky, the emergency room doctor who first treated the injured boy and said that the placement, number, and orientation of the burns indicated they were the result of “non-accidental trauma.” That conclusion was also reached by Dr. Jeffrey DeWeese, a prosecution witness and doctor at the burn unit at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, where Colver’s son was transferred for treatment on the night he was burned, Chang said.
Chang sought to undercut the testimony of four expert witnesses for the defense who suggested accidental explanations for the boy’s injuries, pointing out that they had been paid a combined $30,000 to conduct their investigations and appear in court during the three-week trial. The jury of three women and nine men began deliberating this afternoon.
Colver, who is out of custody on $100,000 bail, faces up to nine years in prison if convicted.
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