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Skater's brother asks that Mass. charge be dropped

Mark Kerrigan, right, brother of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, walks past television microphones as he departs Middlesex Superior Court, in Woburn, Mass., with an unidentified woman, left, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. Kerrigan has asked a judge to dismiss a manslaughter charge against him in the death of their 70-year-old father. Mark Kerrigan, right, brother of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, walks past television microphones as he departs Middlesex Superior Court, in Woburn, Mass., with an unidentified woman, left, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. Kerrigan has asked a judge to dismiss a manslaughter charge against him in the death of their 70-year-old father. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
By Denise Lavoie
AP Legal Affairs Writer / November 18, 2010

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WOBURN, Mass.—The brother of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan asked a judge Thursday to dismiss a manslaughter charge against him in the death of their 70-year-old father, arguing that the elder Kerrigan's death was caused by a long-standing heart condition, not by a violent altercation.

Prosecutors allege that Mark Kerrigan was in a drunken rage during a Jan. 24 argument with his father, Daniel Kerrigan, when he grabbed him around the neck and damaged his windpipe.

A medical examiner said the cause of death was "cardiac dysrhythmia" -- a loss or interruption of a normal heartbeat that can lead to cardiac arrest.

Defense attorney Janice Bassil argued Thursday that Daniel Kerrigan died because he had significant blockage of his major coronary arteries, a condition his family did not know about.

Daniel Kerrigan's arteries were "90 percent clogged" and an autopsy showed he had had undiagnosed heart attacks, but he appeared healthy and often did heavy work around the house, Bassil said.

Bassil said the elder Kerrigan did not die from his son hitting him or choking him.

"He died from heart disease," she said. "He was, unfortunately, facing his death in moments, inevitably."

Bassil accused prosecutors of inaccurately portraying the fight between Mark Kerrigan and his father as a "violent and prolonged struggle" to the grand jury that indicted Kerrigan on a manslaughter charge.

Bassil also said prosecutors presented the grand jury with a skewed account of the fight by not calling Mark Kerrigan's mother to testify. She said Brenda Kerrigan told authorities she saw her son and her husband "in a bear hug," pushing each other, but did not see any other physical interaction between them.

Brenda Kerrigan also told police she saw her husband "gently" fall to the floor, then heard her son say: "He's faking. Dad, you have to get up. I love you so much."

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley called Bassil's accusations "baseless" and said the medical examiner made it clear in his testimony to the grand jury that Mark Kerrigan caused his father's heart attack.

"The defendant's actions set in motion his father's death," Keeley said.

"The acts that he committed were clearly the cause of (Daniel Kerrigan) suffering the fatal heart attack."

Keeley scoffed at Bassil's prediction that Daniel Kerrigan was facing imminent death because of his heart condition, saying it is impossible to know how long he would have lived.

Judge John Lu took the motion under advisement and did not indicate when he would rule.

Police have said Mark Kerrigan and his father were arguing over whether the son could use the family phone.

"He said he struggled with his father and put his hands around his father's neck and his father fell to the floor," the arresting officer wrote in a report.

Nancy Kerrigan, of Lynnfield, won the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, and the silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She won a gold medal at the 1993 U.S. Championships.

She was at the center of a saga at the U.S. Championships before the 1994 Games, when an assailant clubbed her right knee during practice. An investigation revealed rival skater Tonya Harding had knowledge of the planning of the attack.