WOBURN -- The prosecutor raised her voice, pointed at Mark Kerrigan, and told the jury why they should convict him of manslaughter and assault and battery charges in the confrontation that led to his father’s death last year in their Stoneham kitchen.
“It took this defendant -- an angry, mean, nasty, drunk son of his -- to take Daniel Kerrigan down, to end his life,” Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley told jurors in her closing arguments this morning in Middlesex Superior Court. “Those, ladies and gentleman, are the facts you can rely on to convict Mark Kerrigan.”
Keeley told jurors to ignore testimony from Brenda Kerrigan, who was in the kitchen that night on Jan. 23, 2010, and said she never saw her son grab her 70-year-old husband by the neck. Prosecutors allege that Mark Kerrigan, now age 46, crushed the cartilage in his father’s neck, the injury triggering his heart failure.
Brenda Kerrigan said in court last week that her son was holding her husband by the waist and her husband had his arms around her son’s shoulders, a brief physical struggle she said lasted less than 10 seconds.
“You know it would take a lot more than a bear hug to take that man down,” Keeley said of Daniel Kerrigan, whom she described as vigorous enough in recent months to use a snowplow to clear his driveway and help cut branches from a tree with a chainsaw, among other strenuous activities.
While Keeley argued that Mark Kerrigan’s actions were “reckless without regard for the consequences,” defense attorney Janice Bassil insisted prosecutors failed to prove their case, and that no matter how jurors felt about the defendant, there was no evidence to prove that he grabbed his father by the neck or that his actions led to his death.
In her closing arguments, Bassil argued Daniel Kerrigan died as a result of a long history of coronary artery disease, which was first diagnosed in 2003 and persisted to the point that three of the four major arteries to his heart had been nearly fully closed before he died.
“Where is the evidence that [Mark] caused his father’s death?” Bassil asked the jury. “This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the science and medicine comes into play. Mr. Kerrigan died of coronary artery disease.”
She said efforts by prosecutors to describe Mark Kerrigan as angry and mean were “red herrings” that were meant to divert jurors from the facts. She said the same was true for efforts by prosecutors to portray Daniel Kerrigan as a healthy man who was a kind of “Paul Bunyan cutting down redwoods.”
“Don’t fall for it,” Bassil said.
She noted that Brenda Kerrigan, who with her daughter, Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, have supported Mark, was the only other witness to the events that preceded the death of her husband.
“She was very clear about what she saw,” Bassil said. “She didn’t get up here to defend her son; she got up here to tell the truth.”
Bassil said the only evidence prosecutors had that Mark caused his father’s neck injuries was that he told police who arrived on the scene that he grabbed his father by the neck.
But she told jurors that they couldn’t rely on what the defendant said that night, because he had been guzzling too much Scotch, which he sought to hide from police before they arrested him.
“How do you really know what he said or what he meant?” she asked. “He was drunk.”
She also noted that witnesses for the defense, such as Dr. Elizabeth Laposata, a forensic pathologist who teaches at the Boston University School of Medicine, testified that the cartilage damage in Daniel Kerrigan’s neck probably occurred after Kerrigan’s death, either during a two-hour resuscitation effort or during the autopsy.
She noted Laposata said there would have been more bruising in his neck if the fracture had occurred while Kerrigan was alive, because the heart would have pumped increased amounts of blood to the area.
Bassil argued Kerrigan’s heart failure began before he started grappling with his son.
“If you take anything with you into the jury room, this is something I hope you take: There was very little blood around that fracture [to Kerrigan’s neck],” Bassil said. “What did that mean? It meant that blood was not reaching Mr. Kerrigan’s extremities. It meant that the arrhythmia had already occurred, that blood was not pumping. So [the prosecution’s] time line ... doesn’t make sense.”
However, Keeley noted that one of the prosecution’s witnesses, Dr. Henry Nields, the state’s chief medical examiner, testified that “there’s really no doubt in my mind” that Kerrigan died as a result of the altercation with his son, echoing similar testimony last week from a cardiologist who served as Kerrigan’s primary care doctor.
“We have proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Keeley argued, adding Mark Kerrigan “battered” and “beat” his father to death. “Those actions set into motion a natural and continuous sequence of events that led to Daniel Kerrigan’s death.”
Jurors deliberated for 4 1/2 hours today without reaching a verdict before adjourning for the day. They will resume their work Tuesday.
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