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Supreme Court Hears Child Abuse Reporting Case

May 12, 2004
By: Missy Shelton
State Capital Bureau

The Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments today (Wednesday) in the case against Springfield nurse Leslie Brown...She's accused of failing to report suspicious bruises on the body of a child who later died.

Missy Shelton was at the Supreme Court and files this report.

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Prosecutors say nurse Leslie Brown should've reported information she got about suspicious bruises on Springfield toddler Dominic James.

Days later, the boy died and his foster father was found guilty in the boy's death.

A lower court dismissed the case against Brown, ruling that the law requiring certain people to report suspected abuse is unconstitutional...The state is appealing that decision.

Brown's lawyer Tom Carver says the law is so vague it doesn't give doctors, nurses and other mandated reporters of child abuse any discretion.

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But prosecutors say Brown should be held responsible for failing to report the abuse as required by law.

Greene County Assistant Prosecutor Cynthia Rushefsky says if Brown had made a report, perhaps Dominic James would still be alive.

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Both sides faced tough questions from the Supreme Court judges.

Defense attorney Tom Carver argued the law is vague...Judge Stephen Limbaugh asked Carver what was so hard to understand about the phrase that indicates when abuse should be reported.

Limbaugh speaks first.

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On the other side, Assistant Prosecutor Cynthia Rushefsky took questions from Chief Justice Ronnie White.

Rushefsky contended nurse Brown should've known the law requires her to make an abuse report.

Chief Justice White asked her if all injuries should be reported.

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There is no indication as to when the Missouri Supreme Court will issue a ruling.

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