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Guilty by Omission: Lessons from the Loss of Adrian Peterson’s Son

News of the death of Adrian Peterson’s two-year-old son sent shockwaves through the NFL and beyond. On Wednesday, October 9, 2013, police received a call from Joseph Patterson indicating a two-year-old was choking. Officers arrived to find Mr. Patterson in a home with the unresponsive toddler.

The boy was rushed to the hospital, where his head injuries were found to be consistent with abuse. Patterson was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery with an infant, with bond set at $750,000. If convicted of both felonies, Patterson could face up to 40 years in prison and an $80,000 fine.

It was later determined that the toddler was in fact the son of the 2013 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson. His son succumbed to his injuries and died two days after being admitted to the hospital. Prosecutors are considering fling additional charges against Patterson in light of the boy's death, according to police.

Currently, authorities state the mother of the deceased is not under investigation, but depending on the facts that surface in the coming days and months regarding the injuries sustained by the two-year-old, her status as an innocent party may change.Critical to this determination will be the autopsy and whether it shows signs of previous abuse.

The mother’s knowledge of Patterson’s past history of violence may also be taken into consideration. Last year Patterson received a suspended sentence for assault, which reportedly resulted from accusations of violence raised by the mother of Patterson’s own son. Was she aware of his propensity towards violence or worse, did she witness Mr.Patterson hitting or shaking her son and did nothing? The answers to these and many--which will surface in the coming days and month-- are critical in determining whether the mother will also face charges.

Under South Dakota law, as is true of most states, a parent has a duty to care for and maintain the welfare of their child. If a parent fails to properly protect a child from foreseeable harm-- even if the injury is caused at the hands of another-- they can still beheld liable through their omission or failure to take action in preventing the harm.

Whether the mother of Adrian Peterson’s two-year-old faces charges remains to be seen,but it serves a sobering reminder to us all to be mindful of those to whom we entrust our most precious gift: our children.

Author Biography:

Stacy M. Allen has served as counsel on an array of legal matters including civil and criminal law, family law, bankruptcy, and even terrorism cases. Stacy is a proud graduate of St. Edward’s University where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations with a concentration in Latin America, and of Howard University School of Law, in Washington, DC, where she served as President of the Huver I. Brown Trial Advocacy Moot Court Team. Her current practice focuses on a variety of civil litigation and criminal law matters.

Stacy M. Allen, Attorney at Law (@SMAllen_Esq)

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