Steamboat Springs A jury found Luz Cisneros, 34, guilty of first-degree murder Tuesday for the Sept. 6, 2007, death of her 1-year-old daughter, Brianna Simon. Judge Michael O'Hara sentenced her to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The 12-member jury - nine men and three women - deliberated for about five hours before delivering a unanimous guilty verdict at about 4:30 p.m. in Routt County District Court. Cisneros' trial began Sept. 8.
Cisneros, a legal resident alien originally from Mexico, sat stoically while her verdict was read and as she was sentenced Tuesday afternoon. Just before she was remanded into custody, she shared an embrace with public defender Sheryl Uhlmann, and told her: "It's OK."
The defense had long acknowledged that Cisneros did indeed kill her daughter, but argued throughout her trial that she was not guilty of first-degree murder because she never intended to harm Brianna.
Prosecutors argued that Cisneros demonstrated her intent to kill her child by repeatedly threatening to do so in the weeks leading up to her death - assertions the jury deemed credible in rendering the verdict.
The child's father, Isaias Simon, testified last week that he did not believe the threats Cisneros had made to harm herself and Brianna, until the day Brianna died. Prosecutors characterized the threats as Cisneros' way of trying to salvage her failing relationship with Simon, and depicted her actions as those of a calculated woman.
"There's no doubt that in some capacity, she loved Brianna. But control was more important to her than love," Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham said Tuesday during closing statements. "She viewed Brianna as a pawn she could use to manipulate."
In contrast, the defense characterized Cisneros' thought process in killing her daughter as no more than "split seconds" - and maintained that the prosecution was unable to establish what was going through Cisneros' mind Sept. 6, 2007, beyond a reasonable doubt.
"The evidence is this is a woman who was distraught, who did not and could not control the emotions that overwhelmed her," Uhlmann said.
Life imprisonment is the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder, a Class 1 felony. Cisneros has remained in custody since her Sept. 6, 2007, arrest, and she will be transferred to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
The case was the first murder trial in Steamboat Springs since 2001.