BROCKTON -- Just hours after Carolyn Riley was arrested for the drug-overdose death of her 4-year-old daughter, she voluntarily agreed to a videotaped police interview without a lawyer present and talked about her role in her child’s short life.
The interview was shown today on a large television screen at Riley's Brockton Superior Court murder trial to jurors who seemed riveted to see the mother, wearing a blue sweatshirt, initially crying when she sat at a wooden table in a spare cinderblock room.
Jurors may ultimately never hear Carolyn Riley testify in her own defense, but the videotape this interview – and two audiotapes played in court of interviews within a day after her daughter Rebecca died – give jurors direct access to the defendant’s words and demeanor.
In the Feb. 5, 2007, interview played for the jury today, the mother initially asked for a lawyer when told of her Miranda rights. The officers said they understood and began to terminate the talk. Minutes later, however, she changed her mind and signed a consent form to be interviewed.
“OK, I want to talk,” she said, then began to respond to questions from State Trooper Anna Brookes, and another officer in this room.
From that moment on, Carolyn Riley would not need the tissue box that had been brought for her.
Throughout much of the interview, the 35-year-old Weymouth native spoke in the same monotone that she exhibited in two earlier interviews with Brookes. Brookes had led the investigation after Rebecca’s body was found dead next to her parents’ bed around 6 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2006.
Riley recounted the dosages of the three psychotropic drugs that her daughter took for bipolar and hyperactivity disorders. She said that the night before Rebecca died, she gave her only Depakote and clonidine, and she acknowledged giving an extra half-tablet of clonidine in the middle of the night when her daughter, sick with flu-like symptoms, had trouble sleeping.
But the mother raised her voice on a few occasions, generally when the officers questioned her about her husband, Michael Riley, who is being tried separately for first-degree murder. Prosecutors have portrayed him as a violent influence in the family, and suggested that the mother overdosed Rebecca the night she died in response to Michael’s angry demands that the sick child quiet down.
At one point, an officer inquired about her dependence on her husband, such as the fact that he does almost all of the driving for the family. When the officer assumed that she could not drive, her voice flashed with anger.
“I’m perfectly able to drive!” she shot back.
In a determined voice, she also strongly denied that her husband ever urged her to give extra drugs to Rebecca.
She reiterated that neither she, nor her husband, ever struck Rebecca. These answers came in response to bruises that were found on Rebecca’s dead body.
The trial, which is into its third week, is expected to go to the jury by Thursday. The defense may begin its case Wednesday.
Defense attorneys are expected to present medical experts who will say that Rebecca died of a rapid-onset pneumonia, not an overdose of drugs. Prosecutors say the child was given a fatal mix of psychotropic drugs, including clonidine, and the parents showed a “malicious” failure to get her medical attention when she became gravely ill over several days in December 2006.
Patricia Wen can be reached at email@example.com
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