Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Acton MA Mother Charged With Homicide After Investigation Into Child’s Death

Christina H., 23, of Acton (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), was arraigned yesterday, beside her attorney, in connection with the death of her 13-month-year-old son. She pleaded not guilty to charges that she beat him to death inside her Great Road home this past May..

She was held without bail.

Prosecutors say that the Defendant called 911 around 4:30 a.m. on May 12th, 2010, and reported that her son had fallen out of the crib and hit his head. The child was taken from the Defendant’s home and rushed to Emerson Hospital in Concord. It was there that the child was pronounced dead at 5:17 a.m.

The boy’s death has since been under investigation by Acton and State police, prosecutors say. Police learned that the night before he was killed, the boy was home with his mother and two-year-old sister.

“He appeared to be happy, healthy and playful. That night he had fed himself cheerios and drank a bottle before going to sleep at 8 p.m.,” law enforcement has indicated. However, an autopsy found the child suffered “multiple contusions, lacerations, internal bleeding and hemorrhages on the top of his head.”

The medical examiner concluded the child’s injuries could not have been caused by a fall out of the crib, but could only have been caused by blunt force trauma.

“This defendant is alleged to have beaten her own child with such severity that the violent nature and broad scope of his injuries were fatal,” Leone said in the statement.

The Defendant is due back in court August 17.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

When you look at emotionally charged criminal matters, these type are at the top of the list.

It is good that the authorities perform a careful investigation. However, I have also handled cases wherein the prosecutors and the Department of Children and Families (formally, DSS), get involved with preconceived notions that they refuse to reconsider.

Of course, if you are one of my regular readers, you know that this is a tendency with most criminal cases. Investigators come to a conclusion as to innocence and guilt and the evidence seized is used to support the conclusion already reached instead of the other way around.

In cases like this, such an approach is even more horiffic than usual. However, this is not to say that this was the approach in the case I address today. I have no firsthand experience with this particular matter.

Defenses in these types of cases are limited. One possibility is that whatever killed the child was an accident. That will only take a defendant so far…such as, perhaps, a lesser included offense like some kind of manslaughter. However, when the evidence is that the kid was beaten severely a number of times, the “accident defense” seems pretty weak.

Usually, the defense is that the defendant was suffering from some kind of diminished capacity. In other words, the so-called, “insanity defense”.

“Sam, couldn’t any defendant facing charges such as these claim that? After all, who in their right mind would do that to their own child?”

While I agree that a person would have to have some kind of mental or emotional sickness to so treat a young child, it is not the same type of “insanity” that the law looks at. Basically, the question is whether the defendant was of such a mind that they could not tell right from wrong. As a result, low intelligence or emotional instability are not, in themselves, successful when the court looks at “diminished capacity.

Of course, the defense could simply be that the Commonwealth’s findings are wrong…or that it was not the defendant who performed the assault(s). For this, one needs defense experts and, as always, an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Sometimes, in these cases, a conviction on a lesser charge can be seen as a defense victory. After all, only Murder in the First Degree carries a lifetime sentence without any chance for parole.

In these types of cases, it is vital to get an attorney immediately so that you have a chance to be represented during the police investigation. Even if the attorney cannot change the outcome, she can observe, to the extent possible, how it is conducted which can aid in your defense a great deal.

I have handled murder cases on both sides of the aisle. They are seldom simple and usually heart-wrenching. In my opinion, you want a lawyer who is not only experienced, but also has the intestinal fortitude to handle it.

If you would like to discuss such a matter with me, please feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942 for a free initial consultation.

If you would like to read the original story upon which this blog is based, please go to : http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/08/acton_woman_cha.html

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