The Kansas City Star, Tammy Ljungblad) ALL KANSAS CITY TELEVISION OUT, ONLINE OUT, Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than a year after the Missouri Supreme Court called the case a "travesty" and ordered a new trial, a judge on Wednesday terminated the parental rights of Guatemalan woman whose baby was adopted by a local couple after she was caught in an immigration raid.
Greene County Judge David Jones determined that Encarnacion Bail Romero had abandoned her son after she was detained on immigration violations in 2007 and later jailed on identity theft charges, according to lawyers in the case. The judge also cleared the way for the couple, Seth and Melinda Moser of Carthage, to again adopt the now 5-year-old child.
Since being released from prison in 2009, Bail Romero has been seeking to regain custody of her son, Carlos, who has lived with the Mosers since he was about a year old. She said she never intended to give up her parental rights. The state Supreme Court allowed her a new trial after finding state adoption laws weren't followed.
Bail Romero's attorney, Curtis Woods, said his client was "very upset" and he plans to appeal Wednesday's ruling.
"I mean it's been five years that she's had to live with this, and she's never been happy about any of this," Woods said. "Today was just another blow, and she cried, and she's upset and she was emotional."
Joe Hensley, the Mosers' attorney, said the couple was "ecstatic" and ready to move on with their lives.
Bail Romero was arrested during an immigration sweep at a Barry County poultry plant in 2007, and she was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated identity theft. After her arrest, family members who were caring for the boy sought help from a Carthage couple. That couple took care of the baby during the week and later learned the Mosers were seeking to adopt.
The child went to live with the Mosers in October 2007, and they were able to adopt the boy after a Jasper County court judge terminated Romero's parental rights in 2008. The judge ruled that the mother had not tried to maintain contact or provide for the child while in prison, according to subsequent rulings in the case. The adoption proceedings themselves are not public.
Romero's lawyers contend the adoption process was flawed and that Romero was not given sufficient legal representation before losing custody of her son, who was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen.
An appeals panel overturned the trial court decision, saying the lower court lacked authority to grant the adoption and cited state laws that were intended "to prohibit the indiscriminate transfer of children, meaning that someone could not pass a child around like chattel."
The state Supreme Court then heard the case and ruled in January 2011 that state adoption laws were not followed and ordered a new trial regarding Bail Romero's parental rights.
"Every member of this court agrees that this case is a travesty in its egregious procedural errors, its long duration and its impact on mother, adoptive parents and, most importantly, child," Judge Patricia Breckenridge wrote high court's majority opinion.
Hensley, the Mosers' attorney, said the judge's ruling Wednesday was "extremely critical" of Bail Romero and a "vindication to everybody that was involved in this case."
Tony Rothert, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which contributed briefs in support of Bail Romero, said Jones' ruling was a "stark example of the justice system really failing."
"When this case was before the Supreme Court more than a year and a half ago, the court unanimously agreed that what happened was a travesty of justice," Rothert said. "And it's a year and a half later and there's still, we're still far from a resolution."
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com
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