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Justice for Jacob

A couple leaves their 1-year-old son, Jacob, with a family friend for a couple of hours while they go out on a date.  Upon their return, they find their family friend asleep on the couch and Jacob crying uncontrollably.  The next morning, the parents notice that Jacob has a black eye, scratches, bruises on his arm and back, plus a very large and visible hand-shaped bruise on the side of his face.  (How they didn't notice these injuries upon their return the night before is beyond me....)  Multiple doctors and a police detective tell the parents that the amount of force Jacob sustained could have killed him.  Several days later, the family "friend" admitted to grabbing and smacking Jacob across the face.
However, the police do not arrest the family "friend" despite the physical injuries and the confession claiming they needed more time to investigate.  Two months later, Jacob's parents were told that no charges would be brought against the family "friend." The family "friend" then fled the state.  

Jacob's parents were told that under Oregon law, prosecutors must prove that the victim sustained a "physical injury."  Physical injury is defined as the "impairment of physical condition or substantial pain."  (ORS 161.015(7)).  Oregon case law interpreted "impairment of physical condition" to mean "harm to the body that results in a reduction in one's ability to use the body or a bodily organ for less than a protracted period of time."  (State v. Higgins, 165 Or. App. 442, 446-47, 998 P.2d 222 (2000)).  It was later clarified "to include not only impairment of voluntary use of a body part, but also of the ordinary function of a body part."  (State v. Hart, 222 Or. App 285, 291, 193 P.3d 42 (2008) (emphasis in original)).  

Because Jacob could not verbally tell anyone about the pain he was feeling and because he did not indicate with his actions that he was in "substantial pain", prosecutors told the parents that bruising, welts, or shallow cuts alone are not enough of an impairment of physical condition to prove physical injury.  WHAT?!?!?!?  This, unfortunately, is not the first child abuse case like this to go unprosecuted.  

In Oregon, physical injury to an animal can be proved by "fractures, cuts, punctures, bruises, burns or other wounds" (ORS 167.310(10), (11)).  That definition of physical injury should similarly apply to human beings.

Take a look at the picture of little Jacob.  I am amazed that he was not killed or rendered brain dead.  The parents of this little boy are rightfully livid and are lobbying to get the law changed to provide additional protection to young and/or developmentally disabled victims.  

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