Ivan Skorobogatov. Cravers want new trial; custody of Dasha

The Russian Investigative Committee  (IC) isn’t the only one demanding that the Cravers get a new trial.

Last week Michael and Nanette Craver, convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their adopted Russian son Vanya Skorobogatov  filed separate post-sentencing appeals with Judge John S. Kennedy, the presiding judge of their trial.  They argue that the verdicts were “against the weight of the evidence.”  The appeals are not online, but according to the York Dispatch, Cravers ask judge to overturn their convictions and grant them new trials,:the couple argues:

 prosecutors presented no evidence to show either parent physically abused Nathaniel, other than testimony from a forensic pathologist who said he believed the injuries were intentionally inflicted…. 

 …The forensic pathologist testifying for the defense told jurors there was no evidence the injuries were intentionally inflicted, and a number of medical experts testified to Nathaniel’s “numerous and serious medical and mental-health conditions,” including self-injury, according to Michael Craver’s motion

The jury didn’t buy  that argument and found the couple guilty of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and conspiracy. The couple was originally charged with first degree murder, with an option of death penalty specifications..

If the Cravers’ appeal is granted, they can be re-tried only on the charges of which they were convicted, . BUT if they lose again, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, rather than their current cushy time-served awaiting trial.

The Cravers obviously don’t’ know when to quit, especially since their case is edging into international incident territory due to the IC’s attempt to extradite them to Moscow for a taste of Russian justice–and to take custody of Vanya’s twin sister Dasha Skorobogatova in the process.  Dasha, still a Russian citizen, as was Vanya,  is currently, in  the care of an adoptive aunt..

My educated guess is that  Judge Kennedy will not grant the appeal motions since he, agreed with the  verdict:
“It was an appropriate and just verdict,” he said. “The physical evidence … did not establish there was intentional infliction of injuries on Nathaniel. … Certainly there was reasonable doubt presented.”

If Kennedy doesn’t grant the motions, the next step will be to take the case to the Pennsylvania Superior Court for consideration.

The Cravers legal team says the couple maintains their innocence and want to prove it, but also need an acquittal  to re-gain custody of Dasha, whom they  haven’t seen since their arrest in February. 2010.  Rick Robinson, one of Nanette Craver’s lawyers. who said last month that the sentence was fair and reasonable, now backpedaling.  He says he clients are concerned that their convictions: 

establish the ability for Children and Youth (caseworkers) to attempt to terminate their parental rights for (the girl),”  “They want to have contact with their daughter.” 

To add to the Craver’s woes, they are currently unemployed and unemployable due to their conviction. They are now living with friends, which might mean they lost their home.

In so many words,  the Cravers still insist that Vanya killed himself.

Let’s stop right now!  

I’m not going to go through all the trial testimony, most of it damming for the Cravers,  but  let’s just take the autopsy alone.  This is how  pathologist Wayne K Ross, who performed the post-mortem on Vanya, described his condition durung  the Craver’s preliminary hearing, as reported in the April 29, 2010 York Daily Record.

WARNING:  Graphic language ahead 

 Ross said the injuries to Nathaniel’s swollen head were caused by repetitive blunt force trauma. He made the same observation as to the numerous bruises on the boy’s arms, legs, chest, abdomen and torso.

The only part of the boy’s body the pathologist did not take note of was the bottom of his feet.

Pictures taken at Hershey Medical Center by Carroll Township Police Sgt. John Schreiner reportedly showed an emaciated boy with gauze covering his head where surgeons had removed a piece of his skull to relieve the pressure on his swollen brain.

The exhibits – 18 hospital and autopsy photos and a cat scan – were passed by Barker to the defense attorneys and the district justice. They were not visible to onlookers in the courtroom.

Ross said the boy “looked like he was starved to death” and had “less than a millimeter” of body fat at the time of his death.

The pathologist said the boy’s face and head were distorted by swelling and looked “like a balloon.” 

Nathaniel also had a “classic cauliflower ear” normally seen on a wrestler, he said…

…Ross’s other findings included anemia, brain scarring, indications that the boy’s shoulders and hips had been dislocated and that he had been bound at the wrists and ankles. He said the time of the injuries ranged from the 24 hours before being taken to the hospital to up to two months earlier.

under cross,

Nanette Craver’s attorney David Hershey asked Ross if Nathaniel being diagnosed with reattachment disorder, the lack of a nurturing environment in a Russian orphanage and whether the boy was self-destructive and taking anti-psychotic medications would affect his findings.

Ross suggested deferring the psychological questions to an expert in that field. He then explained that anyone seeing Nathaniel over a period of time would have noticed the drastic change in his appearance and health.

Ross said the final injury to Nathaniel’s head that necessitated taking him to the hospital required “hundreds of pounds of force.”

He added the bruising patterns on the boy’s head, back and abdomen “were inconsistent with self-abuse.”

Dr. Ross also testified at the trial.. From the Harrisburg Patriot-News/ Penn.Live.com  Doctor describes Craver’s injuries to York County jury:

After nearly two hours on the witness stand, Dr. Wayne K. Ross circled his main point.

The Dauphin County forensic pathologist had performed the autopsy on Nathaniel Craver in 2009. He had spent Wednesday morning detailing the injuries he found on the 7-year-old’s body.

Nathaniel’s head: “I don’t just mean a little bit of swelling. I mean the entire skull and head looked to me like a watermelon or an alien.”

Nathaniel’s brain: “The bottom line is, it was soft as anything. When you look at the pictures of the brain we took at autopsy, it was purple and dead … it was flat and mushy. It was horrible.”

He found evidence that muscles had torn near Nathaniel’s shoulder and hip joints from being pulled. He found marks indicating the boy had been bound at his feet and wrists.

He found bruising on Nathaniel’s torso and back showing the boy had been struck with a “tool type” device over a period of weeks. He found an untreated broken rib. He found “lakes of blood” under Nathaniel’s skull. To get there, Nathaniel’s head must have been struck repeatedly.

In the weeks before his death, Ross testified, Nathaniel was starving….

…Was it possible, Barker asked, for Nathaniel to have done this to himself?

It went to the heart of the defense case. Michael and Nanette Craver have maintained their adopted Russian son constantly abused himself. It was a manifestation of deep physical and psychological issues stemming from a harsh early life in Russia, conditions the Cravers have said they could not stop.

Ross did not hesitate.

“The abuse I see is due to the direct action of another,” Ross said, “not self-abuse.” 

Other medical, police, and family backed up Ross on various points..

I really don’t see how this evidence can be refuted, despite the defense’s expert witness who claimed it was impossible to tell how Vanya was injured. Pathologists do make mistakes, but Vanya’s injuries are so massive and extended they cannot be dismissed as self-inflicted. Especially by a 7-year old.

Clearly the jury, though flawed with its involuntary manslaughter verdict, believed that the Cravers were responsible for Vanya/s death through abuse or negligence..  A re-trial won’t change that. Whatever happened Michael and Nanette Craver were lousy parents who either caused Vanya’s death directly or indirectly. I believe directly.

I haven’t yet, found an IC reaction to the Craver’s demand for a new trial. The appeals have been reported by the Russian press so we know the IC  and Russian Children’s Rights Commission director Pavel Askakov know–just in case the US State Deparmtnet didn’t know about it.

This is a wrap-up video of the sentencing. 

4 Replies to “Ivan Skorobogatov. Cravers want new trial; custody of Dasha”

  1. Under the bi-lateral agreement between Russia and the US adoptees hold joint citizenship until they are 18. They then can decide what they want. The kids have the protection of both countries.

    Under the agreement, the Ministry of Education and Science must receive yearly reports on every Russian adoptee in the US. I think for younger kids it might be more often, but I don’t remember. Of course, this doesn’t happen. This is when it gets fun. As I understand it, it’s up to the agency to do the reporting. The agencies have to go to the aodpters to get the information and adopters don’t want to give it out. If they don’t, then agency gets n trouble with the Ministry and could lose their accreditation.

    I’d take Russian citizenship myself, but then I want to go back home permanently and be out of this place.

  2. I agree with Von – wonderful, albeit, sad post. M is right about the citizenship status and the Post Placement Reporting “system” post adoption.

    Wow M – I’d forgotten – or NOT wanted to remember – the severe and inhumane way Ivan was BEATEN TO DEATH by his “Forever Mom and Dad”.

    God. I have no words to describe the antipathy I feel towards them.

    As to granting custody of the daughter back to the Cravers – screw that. However, I ponder if the family member who has custody of her will allow them undercover visitation once their sentances are served.

    Elizabeth Case

  3. Thanks. I was pretty sure I was right, E.

    At the moment, there’s a court order forbidding contact outside of letters, but who knows what’s going on. I hope the relatives think the Cravers are monsters and stand by it, but who knows. We saw in one of the other cases (I need to look it up–it’s in PA, where the court order was disobeyed.)

    I’m opposed to sending Dasha back to Russia. She’s been here too long. The IC doesn’t have a leg to stand on, but I sure don’t want her near the Cravers.

    The appeal will probably drag through the courts. As I said, I think Kennedy will deny it and then they’ll go up the ladder. Since I can’t read the appeal, I don’t know what it says, but from the press account, it doesn’t seem that there are any procedural issues which might make for a viable appeal.

    Boy ,they just don’t know when to shut up.

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