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Federal judge recommends dismissal of child murderer’s suit against Fort Drum


A federal magistrate judge has recommended that a $20 million lawsuit filed against Fort Drum officials by a mother who murdered her 3-year-old daughter be dismissed.

Mandi T. Griffin, formerly of Carthage, filed action May 1 in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against unknown Army personnel who she alleged provided inadequate care and resources to her daughter, Vanessa, who had cerebral palsy.

Griffin, who is serving up to life in prison for beating her daughter to death in 2005, claimed, among other things, that the inadequate care was “one prelude to her untimely death.” The child’s father, Darryl A. Griffin, was a soldier assigned to the post at the time of her death.

In her lawsuit, Griffin maintains that the Army displayed “malfeasance” and “deliberate negligence” by failing to provide Vanessa with “adequate health care and proper equipment for her survival.” Griffin claims the alleged lack of care violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act. She claims that the alleged inadequate care constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In a report filed Tuesday with the court, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter recommended that the suit be dismissed for “multiple reasons,” among those being that Griffin lacks standing to bring the action and the statutory period in which she could bring the action has elapsed.

Citing case law, the judge said that a parent cannot sue on his or her own behalf for injuries a child suffered that allegedly were caused by someone else.

“While there are situations in which a parent may bring an action on behalf of a child, plaintiff’s child is dead, and plaintiff is not, and cannot purport to bring this action on (Vanessa’s) behalf,” Judge Baxter wrote.

The judge also wrote that, under the statute of limitations, Griffin had three years from the date of the events complained about to bring a lawsuit. The judge noted that even though Griffin does not specify any time period in which Army officials allegedly were negligent, she has been in prison for at least seven years, meaning whatever events she could complain about occurred more than three years ago.

“Whatever happened prior to her child’s death was well known to the plaintiff, and there is no reason to have waited this long to file an action,” Judge Baxter wrote.

In recommending the dismissal of the case, Judge Baxter also could have recommended that Griffin be given a chance to amend her complaint to overcome any legal deficiencies, but said instead that he found “any attempt of the plaintiff to amend this complaint would be futile” as any claims would fail under federal statutes. His recommendations will go before U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino, who has been assigned Griffin’s case.

Griffin, 34, is serving 22 years to life for second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault, all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of endangering a child’s welfare in the February 2005 beating death of her daughter. She was found guilty at trial in Jefferson County Court in December 2005. She is incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, Westchester County.

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