THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Kerrigan Trial | Globe Editorial

Not just a family affair

May 27, 2011

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A MINDFUL jury and a wise judge arrived at a just end in the case of Mark Kerrigan, who was sentenced yesterday to 2 1/2 years after being found guilty of assault and battery in his father’s death at the family’s Stoneham home last year. The jury acquitted Kerrigan, 46, of the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter in the high-profile trial of the brother of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.

Family dynamics permeated the trial. Kerrigan’s mother, Brenda, disputed the Middlesex County district attorney’s contention that her son “pushed, grabbed, and shoved’’ 70-year-old Daniel Kerrigan, triggering his fatal heart failure. Before sentencing, Nancy Kerrigan urged Superior Court Judge S. Jane Haggerty “to please send him home with us today so he can rejoin our family.’’ Instead, Kerrigan is going to jail on the lesser charge.

It’s said that mothers’ aprons are large to cover the faults of their children. Family loyalty clearly got the better of the Kerrigans. The assault on the elder Kerrigan was consistent with the son’s history of violent crimes, drunk driving, and failure to address substance abuse and mental health problems. When Judge Haggerty sentenced Kerrigan to the maximum penalty on the assault and battery charge, she was not only shielding the general public but also protecting family members who were too distraught to think straight.

Family matters are often best contained within the walls of the home. But when those matters rise to the level of assault, it becomes an issue of public concern. “The days of familial violence being a private matter are long over,’’ wrote Middlesex DA Gerard Leone in his sentencing memorandum.

The jury saw enough gray in this case to reject a manslaughter charge that could have carried a penalty of 20 years in prison. But the judge — in sharp relief — saw a man with “uncontrollable anger issues’’ who wasn’t ready to return to the bosom of his family. She did what clearly was necessary to protect the public.