It is not surprising that viewers were shocked and appalled by the Netflix true crime series The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, which looks at the aftermath of the death of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez at the hands of his mother and her partner. While both the perpetrators - Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre - were found guilty received life sentences, with Isauro on death row, they weren't the only two people put on trial for Gabriel's murder.
WATCH: The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
His social workers, Gregory Merritt, Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement and Kevin Bom, were charged with child abuse and falsifying public records after failing to act in Gabriel's interest despite 60 complaints being filed against Pearl and Isauro from 2003 to 2012. While eight investigations were opened regarding Gabriel's situation, he was never removed from the household. The documentary also examines how Gabriel's teacher would regularly report signs of abuse to Stefanie Rodriguez, while another casework used a computer program to estimate Gabriel's living situation, which suggested that he was at high risk of abuse. Despite the findings, supervisor Gregory Merritt closed his case. So what happened to the four social worker accused of failing to protect Gabriel?
Gabriel died aged eight
All four of them were subsequently fired as a result of the case, and went to trial back in autumn 2019. Speaking to The Atlantic about the case, Gregory has since admitted feeling "crippled by guilt" over failing to read the case properly before closing it. He said: "I don’t think there’s anything else I could have done."
As the documentary showed, the social workers' case was eventually dismissed after the Court of Appeal ruled that there was no probably cause to hold them on the charges. Speaking about the ruling, Associate Justice Victoria Gerrard Chaney said: "Allowing a social worker to evade liability for falsifying a public document would incentivise social workers to put their own interests in avoiding liability for their misdeeds above the purpose of the state's child welfare statutory scheme, which is child safety." The case is still ongoing for the social worker, who are due in court in late March where the charges will officially be dismissed.
READ: The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez: What happened to Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre?
The local community dedicated a tree to Gabriel
Speaking about the decision to drop the case, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said: "I want to thank the dedicated deputy district attorneys who have worked diligently to pursue justice on behalf of Gabriel Fernandez. My office vigorously pursued those who directly caused Gabriel’s death and those who failed to intervene to protect him. While we prevailed against those who inflicted the injuries, the appellate court rejected our theory of criminal liability against the social workers, who my office believed had a duty to protect Gabriel. Unfortunately, in the case against the social workers, state law is not on our side. After reviewing the appellate ruling, I have decided that the best plan of action is to ask the court to de-publish the opinion."
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