FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Marilee H. Brown
NEW BRAUNFELS - The Comal County District Attorney's office abruptly lost its bid to terminate the parental rights of two Comal County residents on Friday. The jury trial to terminate the parental rights of Marli Elrod and Brennan Erickson ended abruptly when Judge Dibrell "Dib" Waldrip granted the parents' motion for directed verdict, thereby dismissing the case before it could go to the 12-person jury for deliberation.
Attorney for Brennan Erickson, Tracie Wright-Reneau, and attorney for Marli Elrod, Deborah Wigington, asked that the judge direct that the case be dismissed immediately after the Comal County Assistant District Attorney rested her case. The parents' attorneys argued that the state had so clearly failed to meet its burden of proof that the case should be dismissed without a defense being required and before jury deliberations. The honorable Judge Dibrell "Dib" Waldrip spent considerable time hearing arguments from counsel and reviewing the law, and then agreed.
The case to terminate Elrod and Erickson's rights to their own child consisted primarily of an allegation that Marli Elrod had caused a head injury to another child she was babysitting. After over a year of further investigation and probing by defense attorneys, it was revealed that the injured child had a bleeding disorder, called VonWillebrand Disease, which likely exacerbated any type of accidental bruising. Despite this revelation, the state proceeded to jury trial against both parents on the premise that Marli Elrod intentionally injured the child she was babysitting and Brennan Erickson was unprotective of his child, who was never injured.
When the state rested its case, the court found that the state had failed to present facts that supported any claim that it was in the best interest of the child at issue to terminate both parent's rights and dismissed the case immediately.
"The DA's Office should have never pursued this case," says attorney for Erickson, Tracie Wright-Reneau. "And they did so against their client's wishes. The Department of Family Protective Services is a State Agency and a client of the Comal County District Attorney's Office - and in this case the Department was not recommending termination for my client. The attorney handling the case for the State repeatedly stated on the record that the Department was not seeking termination, but it was her intention to submit the question to the jury anyway. That's not her call - the legislature gave that power to the Department, not the District Attorney. But thankfully, justice was done today."
On behalf of her client, Marli Elrod, attorney Deborah Wigington states, "My client is overjoyed to have her daughter back, and that the family is reunited after this ordeal with the state."
Jurors seemed to express the same sentiment, stating they knew this case was not right for termination from the beginning. "I am happy with the way the case turned out. I believed Marli's story. The lawyers were wonderful, the child's grandmother was wonderful as a party well. I am very happy," states juror Karen Bearden.
Juror Rachelle Luehlsing echos the same sentiment, "I want to say I am glad this case
worked out the way it did. I think it shows true justice to Marli and Brennan and they
The Department of Family Protective Services is represented by Comal County District Attorney Jennifer Tharp. The DA is still pursuing the felony charge of Injury to a Child against Elrod.
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