trials of gabriel (doc)

trials of gabriel



intro’d via Brian Knappenberger (who made this doc and internet’s own boy) here:

Netflix just announced a documentary series we have been working on for nearly two years. The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez. It is one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever been a part of…thank you to everyone involved and to Netflix for their support.

Original Tweet:

links to trailer

to preserve the institution at all costs..t



episode 1 – a shock to the system

board of supervisors.. over all of la – including.. secrecy/privacy in child protective services

28 min – it cannot be business as usual once the public hears about the case..t

43 min – figure societies out by how they treat children, elderly and animals..t

45 min – so many could have intervened.. but they didn’t and why not.. what we needed was a shock to the system.. and this is it..t

episode 2 – evil in this courtroom

8 min – (prosecutor – da): children are very unconditionally loving

18 min – (first responder): unbelievable.. the amount of damage inflicted on a child.. everywhere on/in body and aged injuries (later told of only thing inside him.. cat litter.. no fat reservers et al)

26 min – (prosecutor – da – jonathan): my route to da a little diff.. abuse.. but i was most scared of his yelling.. just the sound of his yelling..i would start crying.. any child abused.. feeling so small.. can’t do anything.. so yeah.. i want to get up there and fight for them..

31 min – rare to get a conviction that someone is tortured to death

48 min – i don’t know why she (mom) couldn’t see his (gabriel’s) love for him

told child services 3 times and sheriff’s twice.. sheriff’s threatened him to quit lying.. why did they all believe her over the kid with the marks

episode 3 – failure at all levels

15 min – on mother – being gang raped for 2 days, et al, .. herself as a victim does not see that child as someone to be protected but rather is in contact w the part of herself that didn’t get protection.. and is probably enraged.. and at the mercy of her own aggressive feelings.. like her son.. had no one to turn to.. maybe isauro seemed to her like a protector.. things may have triggered them that we are not aware of.. i’m sure pearl never figured herself to be someone of value.. and i’m sure gabriel didn’t either

maté trauma law .. gabor on childhood trauma.. et al

18 min – michael: rumors are.. they were trying to beat that (gay) out of him – raised by gay men – from 3 days to 4 yrs.. at 4 yrs grandpa said 2 gay guys shouldn’t be raising him.. but ‘he was giggling all the time’.. ‘he wasn’t gay’..’i knew i was going to wake him up from the coma by telling him he was coming home w me’.. ‘i can’t picture him in that little closet.. it doesn’t go into my head’

25 min – scapegoat syndrome.. one child takes it for all family failures..

26 min – we all as biological beings have to attach to some kind of care giver.. so if that goes poorly.. for a long period of time (child) can’t manage those feelings

30 min – bio dad – i’m sorry for not being there

35 min – it seemed like they would related to each other by mutually abusing this child.. if you were to remove one of them.. would it have happened..? he was socking him.. but who did the torture parts.. the burning et al.. that would be her..  that sickness in their head that they need to see somebody suffer

36 min – suicide notes from gabriel.. pearl showed to in-home counselor..  but not asking gabriel.. asking pearl..  on pearl learning over the years how to deal with them (protection services) and what to say.. ie: saying .. he wants to go back to my mom’s house.. been 2 weeks.. he would have done it by now.. odd that pearl presented it.. then dismissed it

39 min – can’t just be.. these two people are evil and they murdered this child.. how did this come to be

41 min – first grade teacher.. gabriel asked her.. is it normal for your parent to hit you with a built.. she said.. yeah.. some parents do that.. then he said.. is it normal to bleed.. right then i knew i was going to call the hotline.. as a mandated reporter..  guy said.. that’d be reportable.. got a woman assigned to case – stephanie..

43 min – department put new workers into emergency response.. that was stephanie.. should be people who have been around a while..

if that had been followed up.. death/abuse/torture might not have happened..

44 min – available to see child 24/7 to back social workers .. knowing they have a partner.. that could save lives..  that’s why we wanted to be there.. if gabriel would have reached a medical hub.. might have ended it.. but at no point did they give a warrant requiring pearl to take him there

46 min – another kid (friend) saying how nice he was to people.. happy.. then started missing school a lot.. then started having a bad temper

48 min – teacher talking about cuts on head and fat lip.. she asked and he said his mom punched him in the mouth.. i called principal in room.. principal sat gabriel down and said we don’t investigate.. we just report.. so i quit telling him.. i called stephanie back.. and she didn’t really say much.. that’s when he got angrier.. and crying a lot.. didn’t want to go home.. then he said.. can you call that lady.. but i never told him i called her.. so either she went there.. or saying that was helping.. next time he came looked horrible.. eyes swollen bruises all over his face

52 min – i asked what happened.. and he said i fell .. i said what really happened.. and he got mad.. and he said.. my mom shot me in face w bb gun.. i asked why didn’t you tell me.. then he said.. when i tell you.. that lady comes and it gets worse.. then.. i didn’t want to call.. i didn’t know what to do.. didn’t know what to do to protect him.. better to just not call? but i called anyway

53 min – social worker says it was an accident.. so no follow up.. even if accident.. he needed med attention.. so not even med follow up..

admin to stephanie: ‘don’t know about stephanie.. but if i knew a child was being abused like that.. that child would not get out of my classroom.. would not go home’

54 min – doesn’t come for a while.. then comes back looking worse ever.. kids were scared.. he looked worst..  but he had been out 13 days.. so that was the look after healing.. so i called stephanie again.. and i never got a call back.. i was mad.. why is he still going home

56 min – makes card for mom with 1st grade teacher.. saying how much he loves her and how beautiful she is.. (2 weeks before he died).. make little coupons: clean dishes, time for me and you, i will be good, .. i took the pictures of him with ‘m o m’ with his face covered in bruises.. even made a silly face.. last thing left on his desk was that mother’s day card

58 min – friend telling what it was like when teacher told class of his death..  got me hard that it was his parents that did that.. not just a random person..  kind of hurt.. that you don’t get to tell someone bye.. that’s what i didn’t do.. i was sad/hurt.. it just hurt my heart to see that friend passed away.. over something stupid

1:00 – teacher: i feel like everybody that knew what was going on can see they feel they did all they could.. i didn’t.. i hope the social workers get max of what they can.. they have his death on their hands

1:01 – admin to social workers again – i feel my 4 workers were a scapegoat.. can never be redeemed.. these people have to live with this rest of life

episode 4 – death has got him by the hand

8 min – (guy in charge of social workers.. he oversees 250 kids -each of workers 30ish.. overtaxed): the red flags become more apparent after an incident

10 min – (same guy): taking a child away from a parent is the last resort – ptsd et al.. kids for most part do better in bio homes..  i did family preservation

13 min – the system based on wrong premises.. ie: valuing adult rights way way more than child rights..

14 min – we don’t strengthen families by ignoring obvious warning signs.. they had enough (info) to do more

17 min – on whistleblowers

18 min – (lincoln saul): greatest demand .. appropriate placements once take kids taken into protective custody.. kids ended up living at command posts..  went from 16 to 350 children staying at command post a month.. tried to do something about it.. wrote managers/supervisors.. and they tried to fire me.. after 34 yrs.. message/threat.. was.. don’t tell anyone.. what conditions were

19 min – (lincoln saul): (asked why such a culture of secrecy).. bureaucracies tend to function to preserve themselves.. and those with power.. so if those at lower level try to indicate there are problems.. then we become the problems.. and they do what they can to maintain the status quo.. preserve the institution at all cost.. at the expense of the service that you should be delivering to individuals

24 min – his body was talking .. yelling.. he didn’t have to say anything.. it was all over his body.. screaming for help..  (cigarette burns in his head.. all ages)

25 min – (pearl and kids walk in cps as it’s about to close.. guy talking see all damage to body.. gabriel shows wrists as he walks by him).. supervisor calls him and says.. ‘they don’t want us to do anything.. because they don’t want to pay us overtime.. they don’t want us to stay’

27 min – even though it’s mandated.. ? the kid needs help.. ‘i’ll give you his address.. but i don’t want to get involved.. i don’t want to lose my job’.. i’m not here for a paycheck.. so took the info.. supervisor said.. that’s not in the book.. don’t get involved or we’ll right you up.. then i called 911.. they said.. this is not an emergency.. call the sheriff’s dept.. so i do.. and they say.. we’ll see what we can do.. felt like a load off my back.. but still disappointed with workers i work with.. because wanted to look good for company.. wanted to save money.. could have saved this kids life.. i look in the la times.. and there he is.. dead

29 min – i was surprised it was an open dpss case.. failing him twice.. why doesn’t anyone do something

30 min – daniel hatcher @PovertyLawProf – author of ‘the poverty industry: the exploitation of america’s most vulnerable citizens’.. on maximus for profit .. help govts administer public programs.. they have almost become govt..

daniel: people have heard: military industrial complex.. a lot of people haven’t heard.. the poverty industrial complex.. a lot of times it’s the same company.. lockheed martin also runs child support offices.. but their focus isn’t about what’s best for the poor.. their focus is the bottom line of their company.. report put out ‘foster care as a revenue generating mech’.. very unfortunate ie of a contract focused on profit rather than maximizing the well being of vulnerable people who need the services..

32 min – daniel: cost cutting becomes typically a focus of private co’s.. current ceo of maximus – 3 million

36 min – what does it say that in order to do what is needed to be done in order to save a boy’s life an employee has to feel like he is risking his job

37 min – daniel: on having to break that loyalty of mission to save a child’s life

beating a kid up everyday.. feeding him cat litter.. tied in a box.. tape over mouth..

39 min – (da guy): also sheriff’s dept – wouldn’t show up till 2am or midnight.. and just took mom’s word for it.. didn’t demand to see the boy.. didn’t write reports.. didn’t have investigations

41 min – (da guy) run around to get any reports.. found out there was an internal affairs file.. 100s of pages.. interviewed numerous people.. this unit in internal affairs.. decided to to an investigation and not tell anybody about it for 3 years..  so defense attorney and defendant knew about it but i didn’t.. still no response when then asked to turn it over.. i was shocked that info wasn’t being turned over to me.. and scared.. that this was going to cause a major problem that we weren’t doing the right thing.. my last resort.. was to file a pigious motion.. trying to impeach police officers.. rare.. i shouldn’t have to file a motion to get something from the police dept

45 min – (da guy) – some friends told me to watch my back.. because some deputies were really upset.. threat to my wife (working in system).. people are mad.. and you never know what people are going to do when they’re armed and mad

47 min – lee baca corruption trial.. bacca was defiant.. accused fbi of committing a crime.. full on war between fbi and sheriff’s dept..

48 min – da guy: tried to find out who started this parallel investigation.. there was a lot of info in there that helped our case.. that for some reason they didn’t feel obligated to turn over

50 min – deputies called to home 5 times.. time after suicide note.. just talked to isauro.. got feeling he was just a spoiled child.. so came back in am to scare gabriel into not talking/lying.. that he would be the one to go to jail..  dept said no one will be fired.. described missteps as minor

53 min – i think people can deal with a little bit of embarrassment.. a little boy was murdered..

episode 5 – improper regard or indifference

24 min – (one of social workers): judge said.. failure at every level.. that means systemic.. so why are there only 4 social workers being tried

25 min – on using algo’s to better take care of people.. ie: better decide which calls to investigate and which to screen out.. whether than just going by gut

julia angwin: people don’t realize data being used in all sorts of high stakes human decision making


29 min – pulling in data.. ie: parent history et al..  trying to predict future system involvement.. better than human judgment.. but critics saying we’re creating a nuclear weapon.. bias et al..

31 min – on algos run by private co’s

32 min – julia: software is ready.. and save a lot of money.. so we’re coming up against time.. that we may be (under control of machines)

45 min – on bro and sis going to live w uncle now.. having a safe space.. is everything

48 min – on kids feeling like the abuse is their fault.. policeman in charge talking to brother: ‘a lot of people are going to talk to you.. i’m telling you from the guy in charge of all of it.. none of this is your fault.. when you go to bed at night.. try to remember.. the head guy told me it wasn’t my fault.. nothing..’

episode 6 – gabriel’s voice

da to jury – social workers, teachers, sheriff’s, et al.. had a chance.. now you have a change.. what are you going to do

3 min – blue ribbon commission – done more than others to get at systemic problems.. everyone who touched the system in a significant way

david sanders – head of blue ribbon: ‘biggest issue found was depts not communicating’ – messages not getting passed on to people who could take child away

bass: i believe child welfare system is for poor people.. period

6 min – tried to get system to move as one for bene of child.. so started office of child protection – michael nash – ‘an overarching authority – the did create it.. but w/o authority.. i took over as exec director.. i think we’ve helped move the ball.. but problems that happened w gabriel haven’t been fixed.. ‘

8 min – melissa chadburn – journalist talking throughout

15 min – juror’s talking.. ‘not as clear cut as it would seem.. we had 50 pages of instructions for different degrees..’ ie: ‘a couple didn’t know if it was premeditated’.. other (engineer) juror ‘intent to kill or intent to torture’.. another juror ‘they were killing him slowly’.. 1st juror: ‘time doesn’t matter.. he could have decided.. in little time.. and that would be premeditated’

21 min – on relief w a guilty verdict.. glaring statement by community to that person.. can’t hide from us anymore

22 min – da: ‘i’ll never forget that verdict for as long as i live..’.. hugs gabriel’s father.. da: ‘he (dad) felt so guilty and didn’t trust the system’

23 min – next.. penalty phase.. to determine if he gets death.. currently 740 on death row.. more than anywhere else.. us only western democracy that still has death penalty.. country of great opp.. and at same time.. highly punitive..  country of mercy and vengeance at same time.. gruesome cases are hard to decide.. emotional debates.. personal believes.. kill a person or not.. is he a monster or not

28 min – character ref: he was a caregiver/driver.. he was like a teddy bear.. residents/staff adored him.. for 3 years.. compassion is most important part.. if they didn’t have it.. they couldn’t work for me.. i saw him as a good person.. i don’t think we’ll get the answers.. because ‘shaggy’ is not talking’

32 min – da: talking for gabriel ‘is anybody there to protect/love/hold me.. i’m sorry .. i’ll be a good boy.. no human w a heart and soul could do that to an innocent little boy’

juror: ‘i would stare at him every day to see if i could find some humanity in him.. just any kind of emotion’

‘remorse would be a mitigating factor.. just something.’ voting again.. 11 to 1.. same engineer guy.. he said ‘i would have rather had the mother sentenced to death than him’ other juror: ‘one was guiltier than the other.. they did it together’.. engineer guy ‘the act was evil.. but is he really an evil person’.. girl: ‘i was never going to change my opinion on sentencing him to death.. no matter what.. ‘

and death was their verdict

38 min – pearl pleads guilty to life

47 min – da: ‘2 weeks after sentencing get phone call from deputy saying same thing happened again’ – 10 yr old anthony.. da: ‘i was shocked’.. cig burns all over body.. history of documented abuse…

da: ‘thinking .. how could this be true.. another boy like gabriel.. ‘

5 yrs after gabriel died..  same location.. same boyfriend/mom dynamic.. homophobia..

astrid: ‘even though we’d had a death up there.. the resources still not there for next kid that was killed’

51 min – anthony’s death seemed so noticeable.. officials notified.. seemed if blue ribbon group’s ideas had been put in place.. wouldn’t have happened..

52 min – according to auditor.. ‘dcfx had many (good) proposals but there was no reasonable process in place to implement those recommendations..

guy that had been working for county: ‘when there was no external pressure or scrutiny, it just became that much easier to bury problems w/o really addressing them.. or to address them halfway or to let investigations or disciplinary proceedings or reform measures just sort of evaporate quietly and nobody will be the wiser.. it’s very unlikely that anything lasting/significant will be accomplished in darkness.’

dcfs declined to talk

53 min – w less watch dogs.. easier to do things in secret.. cuts at newspapers.. no one is stepping in to do reporting.. gabriel case is good ie that you need local reporting..

in years since gabriel died.. we know by county’s count.. that more than 150 children have died of abuse/neglect.. after receiving at least some dcfs involvement their lives.. most recent.. 4 yr old noah cuatro.. went to judge.. judge made ruling boy should be removed next day.. dcfs never carried that order out.. w/in weeks he died under very suspicious circumstances..

54 min – 2020 – 4 yrs after social workers charged w child abuse.. an appeals court orders judge to drop all charges

55 min – astrid heppenstall heger, md (exec director of violence intervention program la county, usc med center): ‘i think you do see evil when child abuse dr.. but i believe the ultimate evil in the world is .. knowing/seeing what’s wrong.. and looking away.. it’s in the looking away when you have the power to make a difference.. that is true evil’..t