Mo. Reporting Law Ruled Unconstitutional

By Connie Farrow
Seattle Post-Intelligencer [Springfield MO]
September 11, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A Missouri law requiring health care workers, teachers and clergy to report suspected child abuse to police has been ruled unconstitutional.

Greene County Circuit Judge Calvin Holden also dismissed two misdemeanor charges filed under the law against an emergency room nurse who treated a 2-year-old boy who later died of a head injury caused by violent shaking.

Nurse Leslie Brown was believed among the first to be prosecuted under the so-called "mandated reporting law." Brown, 40, faced one misdemeanor count each of failing to report evidence of abuse to children services and of failing to report it to a doctor at the hospital where she works.

Medical workers from across the nation rallied behind Brown, many saying they feared the case would lead to second-guessing of the way they do their jobs and further overburden state workers with unnecessary investigations.

Prosecutor Darrell Moore said he would appeal. "This is not just about one particular nurse," Moore said. "It is about an issue that's more important - protecting our children."

Brown's attorneys argued Missouri's law was discriminatory and flawed since it failed to set a standard for what should be considered suspicious. The attorneys argued Brown acted reasonably, given the information she received.

Brown treated foster child Dominic James on Aug. 10, 2002. Rescue personnel noticed dime- to quarter-sized bruises along Dominic's spine and expressed their concerns to a flight crew airlifting the boy. The crew then told Brown.

Brown did ask the boy's foster mother about the incident, according to authorities. Brown told police she was satisfied with the explanation that the bruises were caused by leaning back in his booster seat.

Dominic was released from the hospital on Aug. 14 and returned to his foster parents. Four days later, Dominic returned to the hospital with more severe injuries and died Aug. 21.

John Dilley Jr., Dominic's foster father, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Dominic's death.


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