No Justice for Daniel

He died after being abandoned in van for seven hours last summer. How could a jury yesterday find the woman who left him there not guilty?

I had to read the Inquirer headline three times last night to actually believe it: “Day-care owner found not guilty in toddler’s death.”

This is that woman in Bucks County who helped out her neighbors one morning last year by driving their two-year-old son Daniel to her center, Fairy Tales, in Penndel. She forgot he was in her van, got out, and went into the center. It was July. Seven hours later, at the end of the day, she came out to the van and found the little boy. At some point Daniel had unbuckled himself from the car seat, and was unresponsive on the floor, brain dead. [SIGNUP]

I remember very vividly reading that story last summer. I remember because I have a two-year-old. As much as I tried to stop myself, I couldn’t help imagining my two-year-old in that van, in that hot van, getting hotter and hotter as the July day went on, not understanding what was happening to her, why no one was coming to help her, wondering where her mommy was as she frantically unbuckled the belt on her seat, losing air as she failed to figure out how to do something she’d never done before: open the door of a van.

That poor boy.

His poor parents.

I understand that emotion doesn’t sway the law. I get that. And I know that there are all kind of levels of homicide, and maybe, somehow, one of those nine women and three men on the jury can explain to me, or someone, why Rimma Shvartzman wasn’t guilty of “involuntary manslaughter” despite the fact that she involuntarily slaughtered that boy. (She claimed that she’d been stressed and not sleeping because she thought her thyroid cancer had returned. That’s why she forgot he was in her van.) But to find her “not guilty” of endangering the welfare of a child? Her whole business, her livelihood, presumably her life was founded on preserving the welfare of a child, of this child, of all the children parents trusted her to care for every single day. Even when she was stressed. Even when she was sleepless. How is she not responsible?

I just don’t get this legal system. I don’t get how, in this country, a man who failed so devastatingly in his responsibility with lots of people’s money, goes to jail for 150 years, but a woman who failed so fatally in her responsibility with a child…a child who was surely more valuable than those billions lost…gets to go home.

VICKI GLEMBOCKI is a Philly Mag contributing writer. She blogs at Blunt Force Mama.