A year ago, a lone juror prevented Gabriela Mariana Morales from being convicted in the beating death of her 4-year-old son back in May 2008.
The Santa Ana 30-year-old did not get so lucky this week, when a jury that deliberated for day found her guilty of second-degree murder, assault on a child likely to produce death and child abuse.
Judge William Froeberg could sentence Morales to 25 years to life in state prison at a Santa Ana Superior Court hearing scheduled for May 25, which is five days shy of the fourth anniversary of Brandon Morales' death.
Due to the abuse by his mother and her boyfriend, Alberto Solis Guzman, Brandon lived a hellish four years. His then 9-year-old brother testified during Guzman's trial that the man repeatedly hit the younger child with his hands and a belt, and that the couple forced Brandon to sleep on the floor, refused to feed him and made him stand in a corner with his hands above his head for extended periods.
Guzman repeatedly hit and punched the 4-year-old on April 30, 2008. A month to the day later, Morales knocked Brandon into unconsciousness with several blows to his head--and then waited several hours before calling 9-1-1. Paramedics took the boy to Children's Hospital of Orange County, where he was pronounced dead from blunt-force trauma to the head.
At the time of his arrest, Guzman admitted to having hit Brandon before but claimed that it was never very hard and that Morales is the one who murdered her son. But a jury in 2010 convicted Guzman for assaulting, battering, endangering and causing the death of Brandon. Jurors let him off the hook on a second-degree murder count. Judge W. Michael Hays sentenced Guzman in January 2011 to 25 years to life in state prison.
On Monday, the same day a different jury handed Morales a guilty verdict, the state appeals court announced Guzman's conviction was upheld.
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The unidentified holdout juror in Morales' May 2011 mistrial questioned whether the mother was beaten by police investigators and whether DNA evidence found on a bloody towel in her home matched that of her boy.