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.

BROCKTON COUPLE FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES IN CONNECTION TO MURDER OF YOUNG CHILD

A Brockton couple are facing criminal charges in relation to a very sad domestic violence incident which led to the death of a 4-year-old child.

The death is being prosecuted as a Massachusetts murder.

Antonio Durham, 32, is charged with causing the death of his girlfriend’s young son. Tania Merisca, the 27-year-old mother of the boy has been charged as an accessory after the fact. Her case serves as a logical follow-up to the 3-part topic we just finished discussing in this blog.

According to the Commonwealth, Mr. Durham’s murder charges are the result of six months of abuse in a purported effort to “toughen him up”.

“He died a slow, steady death,” said Plymouth First Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton, who said the little boy had injuries consistent with a “hard punch to the stomach.” By the time Mr. Durham and Ms. Merisca brought the boy to the Good Samaritan Medical Center on June 2nd, he had apparently already been dead for hours.

Ada Middleton claimed that Mr. Durham took off from the hospital immediately, while Ms. Merisca allegedly stayed at the hospital for just 20 minutes before returning to a hotel where she was staying. Once there, she is said to have asked family members to lie for her and say that her son had been in their care.

When her family brought up the issue of suspected abuse to the child’s mother, Middleton said, the mother brushed it off as “roughhousing.” In truth, according to the Commonwealth, the child’s final days were preceded by brutality that lasted for months.

Allegedly, six months before the boy’s death, when Ms. Merisca and Mr. Durham began dating, Merisca’s family began noticing bruises on the boy. The child, weighing only 35 pounds, the prosecutor said, told relatives that Mr. Durham hit him so he could teach him to fight and toughen him up.

Toward the end, according to the Commonwealth, Ms. Merisca began lying to her family and that of the boy’s biological father, telling them that the boy was staying with other relatives when in fact he was in the care of her and Mr. Durham.

On the weekend that the boy died, Ms. Merisca and Mr. Durham checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Brockton. The boy was last seen alive on surveillance video at the motel on Saturday, seemingly healthy. June 1st video footage showed Ms. Merisca and Mr. Durham entering and leaving the hotel room frequently, sometimes leaving Mr. Durham alone with the boy and sometimes leaving the boy by himself.

Footage from the next day apparently shows Ms. Merisca leaving the motel in the morning and by the afternoon, Mr. Durham is seen on the video surveillance carrying the apparently lifeless body of the boy up and down the halls, the child’s head rolling limply toward his back.

Additionally, a hotel maid reportedly told police that she was taking garbage out to the dumpsters and saw a man matching Mr. Durham’s description standing over a little boy’s body. The boy’s head was resting on a rock, she told police, and his eyes were open, staring straight at the sun on a 97-degree day.

The maid asked the man if the boy was OK, and the man said he was just sick. A second hotel maid is reported to have said that Mr. Durham brought the boy inside the hotel room and laid his motionless body in the bed – and then tried to get her phone number.

Ms. Merisca, when police questioned her, decided it best to forgo her right to counsel and spoke to them. According to law enforcement, she lied to police, changing her story several times before finally saying that the night before her son died, he complained of a stomach ache because Mr. Durham had punched him, and he vomited a green fluid.

Mr. Durham pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail. Ms. Merisca has also pleaded not guilty and her bail was set at $250,000.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Accessories, Lies And Making Statements

There is little to be said regarding Mr. Durham’s case; it is what it is. It does bring up certain issues and potential defenses which should be fairly clear to the experienced criminal defense attorney.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Durham gets one of those.

Ms. Merisca, of course, has lived out the topic about which we have been speaking. While we do not know what methods were used by law enforcement in order to get her to talk, we do know, according to the Commonwealth, that talk she did.

Often, in such cases, such statements are videotaped for posterity…in other words, trial.

It would seem that Ms. Merisca’s attempt at communication with the police has opened her up for two types of charges. The first, of course, is the accusation of lying to the police. That would be the ironically-named “Intimidation of a Witness”. Then, of course, she provided great help to the prosecution’s case against her as being an accessory to the alleged murder. After all, the argument goes, why would she have lied if not to protect her and her boyfriend?

That, together with the horrible facts of the case together with the expected testimony of other family members that she lied to them and asked them to lie for her, thereby inculpating themselves, the case looks somewhat bleak for Ms. Merisca.

On the other hand, Ms. Merisca is in an interesting position in this case. One would imagine that the Commonwealth might value her more as a witness than a defendant by the time the matter gets to trial.

Anyone notice that she does not seem to be charged with murder and was given bail?

To read the original story upon which this blog is based please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/03/04/boyfriend-charged-with-murdering-year-old-brockton-boy-mother-charged-accessory/RcazXroNPFNGTkrQi89K7I/story.html

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