Capobianco attorney: 'We're now looking to the future'
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The James Island couple trying to adopt a Cherokee girl for more than three years was declared Wednesday afternoon the adoptive parents of Veronica.
A transition plan is in place to bring Veronica back to James Island, the place that was her home for 27 months before being taken away after a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling 18 months ago.
"Matt and Melanie are the adoptive parents of baby girl Veronica. It's been a long process for everyone. That includes a long process for the child, a long process for the birth family. We're now to the point that we can say there are no winners. There are no winners when an almost 4-year-old child has been in this legal limbo. But we're now looking to the future," said James Thompson, an attorney for the Capobiancos.
Officials did not comment on the details of the transition plan, but the Capobiancos previously submitted a 7-day transition plan to the court. Thompson said details of the transition could not be divulged, adding "(the plans) are respectful of the birth family, the adoptive family and most importantly focused on Veronica."
A court order prevents all sides from discussing the details of the transition.
A representative for the Capobiancos said Wednesday afternoon that there were no winners in the case, but that all sides were moving forward focused on Veronica's health and care.
The Cherokee Nation on Wednesday evening expressed their unhappiness at the decision.
"This decision was made without a hearing to determine what is in Veronica's current best interests and comes almost two years after the same Family Court found that Dusten Brown was a fit, loving parent and it would be in Veronica's best interests to be placed with her father," the statement reads.
"Every parent in America should be terrified."
Battle over best interests
"I want to say this. Please, for Veronica's sake, just stop. Stop and ask yourself if you really believe this is best for her."
Those were the words in a brief statement outside a family courtroom Wednesday afternoon before a custody hearing for his biological daughter, Dusten Brown issued a statement through his attorney, Shannon Jones.
The statement goes on to say that Brown is upset Veronica's best interests are not being considered. Quoting parts of the proposed 7-day transition plan drawn up by the Capobiancos, Brown said in the statement that the results of the hearing would cause his daughter harm.
"I will not voluntarily let my child go through that, no parent would. I am her father and it is my job to protect her. My family and I continue to pray that the justice system will bring justice to Veronica," Brown's statement reads.
Jones said she thought the hearing would be fairly short.
Shortly after, both sides filed into the courtroom for a hearing that is expected to finalize the adoption of Veronica to Matt and Melanie Capacitance.
The hearing was slated to start at 3:30 p.m. and could last for more than an hour. South Carolina law states that adoption hearings are closed to the public. As a result, security around the courthouse is tight and only family members and the legal teams are being allowed inside the courtroom.
The hearing has been a long time coming for both sides in a custody hearing that started shortly after Veronica's birth and has lasted through her entire life. She has even been the focus of a pair of hearings in the South Carolina Supreme Court and one hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Her biological father has requested the U.S. Supreme Court to re-examine the case, but Chief Justice John Roberts has not signaled that he intends to act or pass it along to the full court to act.
Several American Indian groups have gone to court seeking to protect the civil rights of Veronica.
The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday argues that a hearing is needed to determine the best interests of the child. The groups also sought a restraining order to stop an adoption hearing in Charleston Wednesday, but that request has already been denied.
"A severe injustice has been committed to an innocent Cherokee child and her loving family in Oklahoma. The Brown family, including Veronica, deserves their due process. They do not deserve to have their lives forever transformed by the South Carolina judicial system without cause or consideration," a tribal council statement reads.
At the same time, Christinna Maldonado, Veronica's birth mother, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of several women with children born who are now fighting for rights after Indian groups have exercised the Indian Child Welfare Act to take custody of the children.
The James Island couple has been trying to adopt 3-year-old Veronica since her birth, but the matter has been tied up in court for years.
Matt and Melanie Capacitance raised the girl for two years, but Veronica moved to Oklahoma in 2011 after a South Carolina court ruled that federal law favored her being raised by her father, a member of the Cherokee nation.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the S.C. Supreme Court's application of ICWA in the case of Veronica was done incorrectly because Brown had given up his rights as father.
AP reporter Meg Kin nard contributed to this report.