LANSING, Mich. (WZZM) - The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the felony murder conviction of a Grand Rapids man serving life in prison for the 2005 beating death of his girlfriend's two-year-old daughter.
A Kent County jury convicted Pedro Antonio Navarro of felony murder in the death of Aiyana Cisneros, who died July 19, 2005, from severe blows to her chest and abdomen.
Navarro appealed his 2012 conviction on several points, including the presentation of autopsy photos to jurors, a lack of evidence showing he injured the girl, and ineffective work by his lawyer.
In a six-page opinion released today, the three-judge panel shot down each of the arguments and let the conviction stand.
Navarro, 29, was sentenced to life in prison in September, 2012. He is currently being held at Alger Correctional Facility in Munising, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The girl's mother, Samantha Winkler, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for failing to protect her daughter or seek medical treatment for her injuries. Winkler, 29, was sentenced to between 16 and 60 years in prison. She's at the Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti.
Winkler and Navarro were living together in Grand Rapids at the time the girl died.
In his appeal, Navarro said jurors should not have been shown autopsy photos due to their prejudicial nature. But the Appeals Court said the photos presented "an accurate, factual representation of the injuries suffered by Aiyana.''
"Here the photographs demonstrated that Aiyana's body was covered in bruising, that she had several broken bones and that she suffered injuries to multiple internal organs, including her liver and kidneys,'' the Appeals Court noted.
Navarro also argued there was insufficient evidence showing he was responsible for the abuse that resulted in Aiyana's death. Justices disagreed.
A few nights before the girl died, Navarro grabbed the girl by the arms, took her up to her room while she was crying and told Winkler not to go check on her, according to trial testimony. When Winkler finally did check on the girl, Aiyana was on the floor in a fetal position and her face was purple.
After that incident, the child stopped eating, vomited several times over the next 48 hours and looked visibly ill.
"A rational juror could infer from this testimony that Aiyana suffered physical abuse by defendant in the 48 hours leading up to her death and that this abuse ultimately caused her death,'' justices wrote.