The California Twelve ~ Dolores Macias of Los Angeles Admission- May, 1994 Resides- Central CA's Women's Facility
Dolores was sentenced to 19 years to life for the drowning (2nd degree murder) of her four year old niece Lynette. She's served her minimum and is in her 19th year of incarceration. All appeals have been exhausted and because Delores will not admit guilt or 'take responsibility' for a crime that she did not commit, she may never get out. She may never be released despite the fact that she has served beyond her minimum and even though she has always received commendable reviews from the parole board. Most of all, despite the fact that from the beginning all evidence has pointed to a tragic accident and not murder.
She has been a client of the California Innocence Project for a number of years and they have steadfastly defended her innocence.
The Child Witness
Seen by some as the most honest and best witnesses one can ask for, numerous studies show that this depends on a vast array of elements. The most common factors I found were child's age, length of time from crime to being interviewed and the forcefulness of the adult conducting the interview. Children don't have the ability to remember things as adults do and memories are much easier forgotten or replaced. Another big factor is coaching that the child may have received from an adult or guardian prior to being interviewed.
Dolores's conviction was based on the testimony of her children and, you guessed it, all of the factors listed above were present.
Day In Question ~ July 21, 1990
Dolores and her children Melody (age 4) and Gilbert (age 5) were over visiting Dolores' sister Olivia and daughter Lynette (age 4). The sisters were in the house catching up while the kids all played in the backyard, in a child sized swimming pool. Suddenly, Melody ran in the house and told the two women that Lynette was playing dead and stuff was coming out of her mouth.
The women ran outside and Dolores started CPR while Olivia called for help. After being taken to the hospital, Lynette died after a week despite doctors best efforts and the death was ruled an accidental homicide by the coroner. Evidence showed that that one or both of the children were rough housing or possibly fighting in the pool and accidentally drowned their cousin Lynette.
Child Protective Services caught wind of what happened and Dolores' two children were taken out of her custody. Gilbert was sent to juvenile detention for a very short period of time before being released to his paternal grandmother, Sara Alverez. Melody was sent directly to her grandmother. Possibly the investigators way of thinking was that four was too young for prison but five wasn't? Luckily neither were charged.
The children's grandmother Sara Alverez did not like Dolores and that was no secret to Dolores, the children, or anyone else that knew them. They were very young children that had just witnessed their cousin's drowning followed by being ripped from their mother's care. Two extremely traumatizing events for children, all of this while under Grandma Sara's care and influence.
Two years after Lynette's death, Sara Alverez contacted the children's case worker. According to her, Melody had been having strange dreams and remembered that her mother Dolores had actually drowned her cousin. Melody and Gilbert were both called to testify in Dolores' trial, and they said Lynette had hit Melody so Dolores drowned her while trying to punish her.
In the above section I mentioned that the length of time and possible influences before interview could alter a child's testimony. This case could be used as a text book example.
At trial, Dolores as well as her sister Olivia testified that the two of them had been inside chatting when Melody ran in and told them that something was wrong with Lynette. Olivia was the only adult witness and more than that, Lynette's mother. Yet despite all of this, Dolores was found guilty.
A decade or so after Dolores' conviction, her children Melody and Gilbert met with the California Innocence Project and confessed to them their deep shame and regret over having lied at their mothers trial. They said that Grandma Sara talked of the drowning repeatedly and they were mad and confused over their mother leaving them. They were also scared and trying to defend each other, if you remember Gilbert had even been taken to juvenile detention.
Can you imagine being taken to jail at age 5? At one point Melody confessed that she was playing with Lynette right before she noticed something was wrong. Melody and Gilbert thought she was sure to go to jail if that was discovered, at the ripe old age of 4. Or even 6, her age when she testified.
Some time after their initial recantation Melody, Gilbert and their brother Frankie who was just a baby at the time of the accident, testified in their mothers defense. The California Innocence Project filed a Habeas Corpus on behalf of Dolores, believing their chances were very good with the new evidence. Her children told the judge everything they testified to as children was false and pleaded for Dolores' release.
Not only were all of their pleas denied, the judge also delivered a thrashing when passing down his decision, accusing Dolores, of all things, of trying to brainwash her children. Wow. Dolores will likely spend the rest of her life in prison unless granted clemency.
If you would like to read more about Dolores's case or donate to her defense, links provided below.
*References and additional information linked at names and phrases.
Article written by Lisa Wallace
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