Protect Children
Author Steve Schmadeke

An emotionally charged civil trial related to the torture slaying of 8-year-old Gizzell Ford was paused soon after it began Thursday when a juror hearing of the horrific injuries the fourth-grader had suffered began sobbing during opening remarks.

Jurors are being asked to determine if Dr. Norell Rosado, a respected child abuse pediatrician who examined Gizzell a few weeks before her 2013 death, was negligent in failing to alert authorities to possible signs of abuse and was therefore a cause of her death.

But jurors appeared overwhelmed as they saw photos and heard details about the brutal end to the girl’s promising life as the trial started.

They were not the first to react with such emotion — a Chicago police forensic investigator with 30 years on the job wept from the witness stand during a criminal trial earlier this year after viewing the same photos.

On Thursday, a burly male juror with a neck tattoo began crying as several of the other 14 jurors fought back tears inside a Daley Center courtroom soon after the family’s attorney, Martin Dolan, told them the 70-pound girl had been found covered head to toe in bruises and with an open, maggot-infested wound on the back of her head. He also showed them three photos of the girl’s badly beaten body, which was found clad only in torn green underwear in her grandmother’s cockroach-infested West Side apartment in 2013.

Gizzell’s grandmother Helen Ford is serving a life sentence for the girl’s strangulation slaying. Gizzell’s mother, Sandra Mercado, and her maternal grandfather, Juan Mercado, who attended trial Thursday, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Rosado.

“Judge, I need a tissue,” said the male juror who had lowered his head to cry, interrupting opening remarks by Rosado’s attorney a few minutes later. Trial Judge James M. Varga called for a quick halt to the trial and at least four jurors left to compose themselves. Two female jurors returned with a handful of tissues.

Assistant State’s Attorney Meg Inskeep, who is representing Rosado, tried to address the raw emotions in the courtroom as she restarted her opening remarks.

“There’s no denying that Gizzell Ford suffered a horrific death,” she said. “I see many of you getting emotional and crying. Believe me, I want to cry too.

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