An 8-year-old boy testified against his mother at her murder trial last week. Van Le, 50, of Oklahoma City, is charged with first degree murder in the child abuse death of her niece, 2-year-old Jessica Chau.
Child Abuse Leads to Murder Charges
The boy, who is now in foster care, said that his mother became angry that Jessica was jumping on the bed. He testified that he saw Le pick up the toddler by the legs and slam her headfirst into the floor twice.
Jessica was taken to OU Medical Center where she was on placed on life support after sustaining brain injuries, internal eye injuries, and a fractured skull. She died two days later, on September 24, 2012.
Van Le was charged with murder and denied bond. Her defense attorney argues that the toddler sustained the injuries prior to being left in Le's care. He claims that when the girl stopped breathing as a result of her injuries, Le tried to revive her by shaking her and dropping her to the floor. The defense asked Le's son if it was possible that what he actually saw was not Le abusing the girl, but trying to resuscitate her. The boy responded that he does not remember his mother shaking the girl when she was not breathing.
Oklahoma Murder Law
The Oklahoma statutes define first degree murder in several ways:
- Intentionally killing another person with "malice aforethought"
- Causing the death of another while committing a felony
- Abuse of a child resulting in death
- Murder for hire
- Killing a law enforcement officer or corrections officer in the performance of his duties
The statute regarding fatal child abuse as first degree murder reads as follows:
A person commits murder in the first degree when the death of a child results from the willful or malicious injuring, torturing, maiming or using of unreasonable force by said person or who shall willfully cause, procure or permit any of said acts to be done upon the child pursuant to Section 843.5 of this title. It is sufficient for the crime of murder in the first degree that the person either willfully tortured or used unreasonable force upon the child or maliciously injured or maimed the child. (21 O.S. § 701.7[c])
The punishment for first degree murder includes life in prison, life in prison without parole, and death. As a violent crime, murder in the first degree is subject to the "85 percent rule," in which anyone convicted of the crime must serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence before becoming eligible for parole, unless parole eligibility is denied at sentencing.