Attorney Praises Jury for Acquitting Client of Murder in Baby’s Death

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The “facts in the case” did not support a murder or manslaughter conviction for a convicted felon acquitted of causing the death of his infant daughter in a high-speed crash on the south end of Palm Desert, his attorney said Tuesday, praising the jury for giving his client “a chance at justice.”

“Anytime you have the loss of child, it is very devastating and emotional,” Zulu Ali told City News Service. “The challenge in these types of cases is convincing the jury to separate the emotion from the law and facts in the case. I believe we were able to convince the jury to do just that.”

A Riverside jury deliberated nearly three days in the trial of 58-year- old Marcus Novell Green of Thermal before returning with not guilty verdicts Monday on charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for the June, 27, 2016, death of 5-month-old Armani Green.

The panel convicted Green of a misdemeanor child abuse count. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst immediately sentenced the defendant to a year in jail for the conviction, but with credit for time served awaiting trial, the sentence was nullified, and the defendant was released from custody.

“In essence, he was innocent of the charges as framed by the District Attorney’s Office,” Ali said. “The mother had pled guilty early in the case; however, with regards to Mr. Green, it was not a homicide or even felony conduct. It was a long journey, but justice ultimately prevailed.”

Green’s ex-girlfriend, 29-year-old Kristen Lauer of Rancho Mirage, pleaded guilty in 2019 to second-degree murder and child cruelty and was sentenced by Judge Burke Strunsky to a lifetime term of probation.

Strunsky justified the sentence by pointing to the physical impairments, including a brain injury, Lauer suffered because of the wreck. He downplayed the part she played in it, describing hers as a “neglectful criminal act,” not a deliberate one.

Armani was sitting on her mother’s lap, not restrained in a car seat, when the crash occurred on a segment of Highway 74 that is narrow and courses through hills. According to prosecutors, Green was likely driving up to 60 mph on a segment of the corridor where the speed limit is 30 mph due to steering hazards.

The defendant was at the wheel of a modified 2015 Porsche sports coupe and lost control, causing the vehicle to skid toward the shoulder and plow through a guardrail, after which it plunged down a 200-foot embankment, prosecutors said.

Armani was hurled 90 feet from the car when it overturned, suffering catastrophic injuries. The infant was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics less than an hour later.

“It is critical to note that we had a diverse jury that reflected a cross-section of the community,” Ali said. “Anytime you have a diverse jury, you have a chance at justice. We got that chance, and we got justice.”

According to court records, Green has prior convictions for firearm assault, robbery and theft going back to the early 1990s.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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