Defense attorney Michael Johnson said the detective lied to get a confession by telling Rivera doctors needed to know how the girl was hurt in order to keep her alive.
“There is no evidence that he caused this,” Johnson told the jury during his closing argument. “The state should not have ever accused him.”
Johnson declined to comment outside the courtroom.
A battery of doctors, including a pathologist for the state medical examiner's office, testified the girl's injuries were caused by “abusive head trauma” and not a fall from a 3-foot-high bed.
Testimony from a radiologist who treated the girl was especially compelling, the prosecutor said.
“He was extremely emphatic that the bleeds and the skull fracture were caused by someone picking up the child and slamming her head against a hard object,” Carlson said.
Hospital photos shown during the trial revealed contusions on the girl's chest and bruising on her legs and arms. Prosecutors argued the marks were caused by the defendant; Rivera's attorneys said they were caused by staff at the two hospitals where she was treated.
Parents await trial
Prosecutors alleged the girl was injured while she and her 4-year-old brother were left in Rivera's care for more than six hours on Aug. 16, 2011, while her parents were at work.
The parents, Carlos Beletzuy-Lopez and Linda Walleska Beletzuy are awaiting trial on child neglect charges.
District Attorney David Prater called Rivera the product of “deficient parenting skills,” and blamed the child's death on the mother and father. He called it “completely unnecessary and avoidable.”
“They believe that parking a 13-year-old in front of a violent video game and placing that 13-year-old as the caretaker of a 4-year-old and 9-month-old siblings was appropriate,” Prater said. “The shared responsibility for the death of this 9-month-old baby falls directly on the parents' shoulders.”
The mother declined to comment outside the courtroom. The father said he didn't believe his son injured the girl and would leave her with the boy again if given the chance.
“Yes,” Beletzuy-Lopez said. “He's a good kid.”