SALINAS (AP) — A midlevel California appeals court has overturned the conviction of a Salinas man who allegedly tried to sell his 8-month-old baby in a Walmart parking lot.
The state’s 6th District Court of Appeal ruled Friday that the judge who originally heard the case gave incomplete instructions to the jury that ultimately convicted 41-year-old Patrick Fousek of child endangerment, The Monterey Herald reports.
Both Fousek and his girlfriend, Samantha Tomasini, were arrested two years ago when two women reported that Fousek had approached them and asked if they wanted to buy his infant daughter for $25. Fousek’s lawyers argued during his 2011 trial that the offer had not been serious, but the appeals court said Monterey County prosecutors had presented enough evidence to support a guilty verdict.
But the court, in its unpublished opinion, said Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler should have been told they needed to agree unanimously on the specific act or acts on which they based their verdict. In Fousek’s case, that could have been the proposed sale of the baby, the squalid home in which she was being raised, or the fact that Tomasini allegedly breastfed the little girl while high on methamphetamine.
From the trial transcript, the court said there was “a reasonable possibility of a non-unanimous jury verdict” on any single allegation.
Fousek received a six-year prison sentence on the conviction. Tomasini was sentenced to four years’ probation after she pleaded no contest, but was sent to prison last year for violating the terms of her probation.
The couple’s daughter has since been adopted.
Prosecutors said they would likely retry the case.