A judge acquitted a father of vehicular homicide charges in the death of his 3-year-old daughter in a car accident when she was not in a child-restraint seat, saying the prosecution failed to present enough evidence.
Ramiro Rodriguez, who learned of the judge's decision through a Spanish interpreter, looked relieved and called the verdict "a miracle" when his attorney's request was granted Friday morning, a day into testimony.Prosecutors said reckless driving and failure to confine his daughter, Veronica, in the seat warranted the homicide charge. But Circuit Judge Sidney Shapiro said, "Whether two infractions equate to a crime, this court does not believe they do."
Veronica was ill with a rash and fever when the accident occurred last August. Rodriguez and the child's mother had gone to the store to buy pain medicine for babies and were a couple of blocks from home when his car collided with a van at an intersection.
Veronica, who was sitting in her mother's lap, hit the car's front and died later at the hospital from severe head injuries.
Rodriguez hugged his supporters and said, "I feel nervous and happy, but the pain I have won't go away. It never will. This is a miracle."
States increasingly are legislating stricter auto safety measures for young children, and Rodriguez's case is believed to be the first to go to trial for violation of such a law, lawyers in the case said.
In 1983 in Cincinnati, a man was found not guilty of vehicular homicide in the death of his 2-year-old son, who fell out of the passenger door of the pickup truck. The man, however, was not charged under Ohio's child-restraint law.
In the Miami case, the defense maintained Veronica's death was a tragedy and that prosecution of Rodriguez, 30, was a miscarriage of justice. If he had been convicted, Rodriguez could have faced up to five years in prison, but prosecutors had said they would have sought probation.