A Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge sentenced Nixzaliz Santiago, the mother of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown, to 43 years state prison today after she was convicted on October 17, 2008 for Manslaughter. Her husband, and the girl’s stepfather, had previously been convicted for the same offense and received 29 years. In fact, it is Mr. Santiago that dealt the fatal blow after Nixzmary took yogurt from the fridge without permission. It is no surprise to this NY criminal defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor that Ms. Santiago received a harsher sentence than her husband.
According reports, Judge DiMango stated to Ms. Santiago at her sentence that she “may not have delivered the fatal blow, but . . . it was in your power to prevent the effects of it…[w]ere it not for your failure to act, Nixzmary Brown would have probably not died from that blow that day.”
Under NY State law, two separate defendants may be liable for the same act as accomplices even though there actual conduct or involvement differed. In other words, the “getaway” driver and the “stick up” guy at the bank may have had different roles, but they aided and assisted each other in reaching their common goal. While the law does not apportion levels of guilt, if they are both convicted, a judge has the ability to decide who is more culpable and who should be punished more severely.
In the tragic case of Nixzmary Brown, the little girl’s death was the result of both of her parents’ actions. Despite looking at them equally in the eyes of the law as far as their guilt, Judge DiMango overwhelming felt that the child’s mother could have stopped the horrific event and ultimate death from happening. We can all agree to disagree on who is more culpable and argue that one parent’s actions were worse than the other’s, but there are a few things that cannot be disputed. Crimes against children are not tolerated at any level in New York and little Nixzmary Brown’s death was appalling, heartbreaking, and a blemish for us all.