Cisneros takes the stand

Trial to end today for woman accused of killing daughter

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The murder trial of Luz Cisneros is scheduled to end with closing arguments today.

Evidence presentation and witness testimony ended Monday after Cisneros testified in her defense. The Steamboat Springs resident is accused of killing her 1-year-old daughter, Brianna Simon, on Sept. 6, 2007. Cisneros is charged with first-degree murder, though the jury also may consider charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

If convicted of first-degree murder, she could get life in prison without the possibility of parole. Cisneros has pleaded not guilty, and her defense has indicated that she was too emotionally overwhelmed to know what she was doing when she cut Brianna and herself with a knife.

Cisneros said repeatedly Monday that she never meant to harm her daughter.

The prosecution and the defense each have an hour for closing arguments this morning, after which the jury will begin deliberations.

On Monday, Cisneros, 34, described caring for Brianna. After she was born, Brianna came home from the hospital and needed an oxygen tube for a couple of weeks, Cisneros said.

"I was making sure her tube doesn't fall out," she said. "I didn't sleep during those nights."

Cisneros, a legal resident alien who is from Mexico, said she told the child's father, Isaias Simon, that she might hurt herself and the child. Simon testified last week that he did not think Cisneros would act on those threats because she was a loving mother.

Cisneros spoke English during the trial, though an interpreter repeated questions to her in Spanish. She frequently became emotional, reaching for tissues and crying.

Her lawyer, public defender Sheryl Uhlmann, asked whether Cisneros loved her daughter.

"More than my life," Cisneros said.

Uhlmann entered a page from Brianna's baby book into the record Monday. On it, Cisneros had written that she wanted the child to learn self-defense.

"Were you afraid that people might hurt your child?" Uhlmann asked.

"Yes," Cisneros answered.

"Why?" Uhlmann asked.

"Because of my experiences," she replied.

Cisneros then discussed her childhood in Mexico. The defendant described being abused by her father, who she said acted violently toward her mother and siblings.

When Uhlmann asked Cisneros whether she ever had a "specific, conscious objective" to kill her child, she repeatedly said no. When Deputy District Attorney Carl Stahl cross-examined Cisneros, he asked what she thought that phrase meant. Cisneros answered that she didn't know.

"So every time your attorney asked you if at certain points you had the specific, conscious objective to kill your child, you didn't even know what that meant?" Stahl asked. Cisneros asked Stahl to repeat the question, and he moved to another instead.

Stahl also challenged statements Cisneros made Monday, suggesting that they contradicted what she told Steamboat Springs police Detective Matt Harmon after Brianna's death.

Stahl asked whether Cisneros was trying to prove something to Simon, who was planning to leave her. Cisneros said she wanted to move to Wisconsin with Brianna and that Simon would not join her. The couple had started making custody arrangements, Cisneros said earlier in the day.

"When you were cutting your daughter's neck, you testified earlier that you don't know what was in your mind at that time, but in the interview with Detective Harmon, you said that you were really angry with Isaias. Isn't that correct?" Stahl asked.

"I was angry at Isaias, but also on my mind was the same thought: Just disappear," Cisneros said. "That was over and over again the same thought: Just disappear."

Stahl asked Cisneros whether she tried to call 911 or stop Brianna's bleeding after cutting her. Cisneros said no. Autopsy reports indicated the 1-year-old died from a "total transection of the left jugular vein" due to an "incised wound to the neck."

Stahl also confirmed that Cisneros told Harmon she had considered going to Mexico, saying goodbye to Simon's parents and then killing herself and Brianna in a hotel room. Cisneros said she thought of doing so but never acted on the impulse.

During Uhlmann's redirection period after the cross-examination, the defense lawyer asked Cisneros whether she had accepted that Simon would not come to Wisconsin. Cisneros said she had. Uhlmann again addressed Cisneros being overwhelmed by emotion during the slaying.

"Mr. Stahl asked you, 'Did you try to call 911; did you try to stop Brianna's bleeding?'" Uhlmann said. "In those moments, as you were cutting your own neck, were you emotionally able to stop and think about doing those things?"

"No," Cisneros answered.

Closing arguments are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. today at the Routt County Justice Center.

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234

or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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