Defense expert: 'They're trying to put some of the blame for that beating death on her … I haven't really seen that before'
Mike Benito, a Tampa criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, questioned what evidence investigators have to prove the manslaughter charge. For the state to prove the charge in court, he said, they would have to demonstrate that Steele had reason to believe leaving the infant with the 6-year-old could result in harm to the infant. Doing that, he said, is a tall order.
"You would have to show to a jury it would have been reasonable for her to believe the kid would behave this way if she left him alone with the baby," Benito said.
A charge of felony child abuse makes more sense, given what the sheriff said about the mother's actions.
"The sheriff can decide that he has enough probable cause to make this charge. But when the state attorney's office reviews it, they've got to determine much more than probable cause. They may decide there's not enough evidence … They could decide to charge her with felony child abuse, which would be leaving the kids in this situation to begin with."
"They're trying to put some of the blame for that beating death on her," he said. "I haven't really seen that before."
— Dan Sullivan