Cruz lawyers argue baby died before birth
Emotions ran high in a Rolling Meadows courtroom Tuesday as testimony began in the trial of a Hanover Park woman charged with strangling her newborn baby nearly three years ago.
Jurors dabbed at their eyes as tearful witnesses described finding the 6-pound, 11-ounce baby boy wrapped in a plastic bag and placed in a garbage can in the restroom of a Salvation Army store in Streamwood on Nov. 4, 2011.
In opening statements Tuesday, prosecutors portrayed Jessica Cruz, 22, as a young mother solving an unwanted pregnancy by killing her son. Cruz's attorneys, however, argued that baby was born dead and that Cruz never intended to kill him.
Cook County Assistant Public Defender Daniel Naranjo choked up during his opening statements, while Cruz sat with her head bowed and her hand covering her eyes.
"This case is nothing short of tragic," said Naranjo, "for the baby who didn't make it and the mother who gave birth to him."
Naranjo described Cruz -- then 19 and already the mother of a toddler -- as confused and scared as she faced another pregnancy. Not knowing what to do, she ignored her condition until it was too late, Naranjo said. Prosecutors claim Cruz acted intentionally.
"When that child was taking his first breath he was not enveloped in the arms of a mother embracing him with love and gratitude," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Karen Crothers. Instead, Cruz "put him in a plastic bag, tied it around his throat and threw him away," Crothers said.
"For her it was problem solved," said Crothers, who told jurors Cruz never wanted the baby and hid her pregnancy from everyone except the baby's father.
Fearing her mother's angry reaction, Cruz strangled her son and left him in a trash can covered with toilet paper, Crothers said. Later, during a police interrogation, she called herself a "coward," Crothers said.
But tossing away her son "was more than cowardice," said Crothers, "it was first-degree murder."
Cruz's attorneys said they will introduce expert testimony that the baby did not survive his birth.
"Jessica's baby did not cry. Jessica's baby did not move. Jessica's baby never took his first breath," Naranjo said.
"She may have been reckless for not calling for help and leaving the baby there," Naranjo said. "But she's not guilty of murder."
Testimony continues Wednesday.