Trials Of Gabriel Fernandez - Another Netflix documentary series that showcases the evil that men do
Series offers a tour-de-force inquisition of prosecutorial conduct with a blend of true crime ripened.
By abstracting the ignorance and injustice done in a Kafatesque system we distance ourselves from the guilt we should attain as members of society. Inside this realm of reality, more and more often with means to uncomfortably summarize the bloodshed, the pressure that feels much like that one of the sinful Middle Ages and almost as obscurely lurking from every corner, we must accept the blame for being too comfortable with our lives. Why? Because we live in an age of mental gas-chamber moments where we slide over the volitions, misplaced hatred and the pain, we chose to re-evaluate from time to time a trending image or a hashtag to enrol in the momentous avalanche.
Even in the face of the recent pandemic and the fragility of our existence it has shaken away, our egoistic illusion of invincibility scrutinized to toilet paper discount, one Oluwatoyin Toyin Salau has been murdered after posting a distinct description of her assailant on media and pleaded for help. One might wonder what are the recent events in the US for us, Europeans. One might wonder how the doctors overseas learn the same anatomy of a human on their way to save lives. And one might a, perhaps, stay here for a second and reach out to the Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, dying at the age of eight.
He did not slip in the bathtub!
Christiene Estes, an ER nurse of years, her hair in messy curls, breaks down in the bright light of Californian midday. “I will never forget his name. I celebrate his birthday with my family. We let balloons out”. Netflix documentary on true crime Trials Of Gabriel Fernandez opens here upon revision of Estes, as she recalls welcoming a comatose body of an eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, born on February 20th 2005. He was revived three times during the night of May 24th 2013. The last time he was seen alive he was on his way to a children’s hospital, with a pulse hardly given after three resuscitations. Both Fernandez and Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez, Gabriel's biological mother, are in focus as the prosecution unravels over six episodes, with all the pulsations of the ongoing gore of torture resulting in Gabriel's murder. Choking on breath, swallowing her tears, Estes remembers with disbelief in her trembling voice “She said he slipped in a bathtub.” His foster father claimed he wrestled with the older son.
Gabriel Fernandez, named after the Archangel Gabriel, protector of health, was burned, shot at with a BB gun, starved to death, bathed with cold baths without warming up, whilst in a cold bath sprayed with a pepper spray, beat up on a wall, handcuffed, strangled, made to sleep in a cupboard counting barely half a meter of width next to the cage of cats. He was fed filthy cat litter. Gabriel’s forensic autopsy took 2 days, revealing what seemed to be an unending string of severe, untreated inner and outer wounds, a depressed skull, broken ribs and no stores of fat, a thyroid gland ten times smaller than that of a normal child of his age. Almost ironically, two weeks before his death after toiling another boxing with Aguirre, a fully grown 31-year old male, he had made a Mothers Day project, with the sincerity of a child yearning for love. Filling out a handmade coupon for his mom, he wrote only three words “I will be good.” as if he was pleading to be enough to be free from harm.
“The more you looked the more you saw.”-the testimony of one of the paramedics went. Through the series, Gabriel’s presence is a griefing, haunting wound. We see prosecutor John Hatami wholeheartedly designating the process proving irrevocably that Pearl Fernandez and Aguirre have been involved in a systematic, premeditated sadistic torture deserving of a life sentence for the aforementioned and a death penalty for the latter.
With failure at all levels, death took him by the hand
Taken away from his great-uncle David Martinez and placed, upon the request of maternal grandfather in their home, Gabriel was still safe from harm from the age four. When, however, taken to his mother and Aguirre at the age of 8, probably on the grounds of welfare money, Gabriel’s health deteriorated rapidly.
Trying to represent Aguirre as the victim of Pearls controlling behaviour, the blind moment of rage. As the witnesses rolled in for Isauro Aguirre painting him in favourable colours of a benevolent volunteer in local elderly care, the prosecution did not rest. This was the same man who teasingly communicated with Pearl on “poor Gabi” having another cold bath. Their similar views on exploiting the life limit functioned almost like a power play or sexual foreplay. Aguirre with his manly attitude continued to batter Gabriel as gay on the grounds of his first foster. Martinez is a homosexual and that, in minds of the entire family, was enough to break the spell of competence of taking care for a baby.
Somewhere, amidst the general displeasure of having over thirty subjects (children), working after hours, insufficient payment and lack of judgment after watching repetitively signs of abuse for 45 years in the system, four social workers- Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement, Kevin Bom and the supervisor of Family Preservation unit Gregory Merritt-have left our every sign of distracting injuries Gabriel survived as irrelevant. It was not their mission to rule out and imprison two people for murder. The ambiguous element of Family Preservation- preserving the smallest sociological unit at all costs, ostensibly here even torture, proved its consequence. Preservation may be rational when there is something worth preserving. Tied clothes bagged up under the sink with only two dresses for the girls to wear, being reminded daily that your first loving pair of adult carers were gay and that by extension, you are too, being shot at with blanks and having to defend yourself from being stabbed with burning cigarettes on the forehead, so that at the night of your death every single one of your little fingers on both hands is broken-what is there to preserve, and not to fear. It was an unprecedented case in social work history, to have four of their own on trial for grave misconduct, and having to toy and shift the blame to police and teachers who could have done something by reporting the claims of abuse did not appease this time.
“We do not investigate, we just report.”- the principal of Gabriel"s school said to his teacher, Jennifer Garcia after she called him in. Gabriel came back after two weeks, his head full of what seemed like scabbed remnants of inflamed skin, his retina and eyeball were still completely bloody. He had just completed the Mothers Day Project. Garcia remembers she had, on several occasions reached aforementioned Rodriguez, who took up notes but, it appears, seldom followed up. Rodriguez had previously been called up by Pearl herself, after the discovery of what seemed to be Gabriel"s suicide letters to his maternal grandmother. "I will love you to death" one of those reads. Rodriguez has been convinced that the boy was just seeking attention, without ever having the smallest of talks with Gabriel. Similarly, two police officers stood trial refusing to appear on Netflix movie. They too have tried to righten up the little Gabriel by warning him he would end up in prison if he goes on lying about his parents so disgustingly.
How much is enough?
“When I tell you, and that lady comes, I get hurt more.” “Is it normal to bleed from the bottom after being hit? Is it normal if your mom shots blank at you? She hits me with...you know that little part of metal on a belt? Yeah, that.” (Gabriel Fernandez to his teacher, Jennifer Garcia)
How can we ever imagine what has been going on in Palmdale Drive, California, between the three people of such different nature? The Trials Of Gabriel Fernandez earned the sad warning glow as one of the most difficult documentary movies to stream on the platform to this day. Yet, there is some strength in knowing so much can be effectively changed if only one refuses to say silent about pain. This is by no means a try to outweigh the guilt that lies over the story; this is a try to appeal to our conscience to be awake.