Washington v. Cardenas-Flores (Majority and Concurrence)Annotate this Case
Zaida Yesenia Cardenas-Flores did not make a corpus delicti objection at trial, raising it for the first time on appeal. Cardenas-Flores and Carlos Austin brought their infant son, C.A., to the emergency room. They reported that earlier that night, Austin had accidentally rolled over onto C.A.' s leg while they were sleeping near each other on a bed. Both parents were concerned that C.A. had been injured as a result of the rollover. A doctor examined C.A. and ordered X-rays, noting some initial swelling and tenderness around his left leg. After reviewing the X-rays, the doctor reported that "everything looked normal." Less than a week later, the child was again rushed to the emergency room complaining of leg pain. The doctor found a displaced femur fracture that should have shown healing since the initial ER visit days earlier. The doctor concluded the rollover incident could not have injured C.A, and contacted Child Protective Services. Upon questioning, Cardenas-Flores admitted to police that she tried to take her son out of his car seat too fast, which could have caused the fracture. She was ultimately charged with second-degree child assault. At trial, she denied pushing her son's leg or pulling him from his car seat too quickly. She claimed that she lied to appease the police and that her confession was false. A jury convicted Cardenas-Flores, and the court sentenced her to 31 months in prison, the bottom of the standard sentencing range. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals, holding that a criminal defendant may raise corpus delicti for the first time on appeal as a sufficiency of the evidence challenge. On the merits of Cardenas-Flores's claims, the Court held the State presented sufficient evidence to establish the corpus delicti and all elements of the crime charged, and rejected her challenge to the jury instructions. Accordingly, the Court affirmed her conviction.