The Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog has discussed many cases which involve elements to which law enforcement and the courts are particularly sensitive. Today’s posting involves one such class of victim, namely, children. In this case, it is the mother who faces criminal charges.
As the prosecutor told the court last Friday, police responded to a report of a 3-year-old being Kristen P. 27, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) was charged with reckless endangerment to a child and assault and battery on a child and was held on $10,000 bail after arraignment in Lowell District Court. According to the police, they found her 3 year old son locked in a sweltering, filthy attic. The boy was naked, covered in urine and feces, and had several minor bumps on his forehead. Further, the police say that the temperature in the attic was over 100 degrees. The attic door was locked and the only window inside was nailed shut.
Officers say that another boy and a girl at the home told them that the Defendant took the 3-year-old by his arms ”and dragged him upstairs to the attic.” The children told officers such things happened ”a lot.” Apparently, ”Mommy does this when she gets angry.”
Apparently, the Defendant’s poor judgment extended to her response to police questioning. When asked how long the child had been upstairs, the Defendant is said to have nonchalantly answered, “About an hour”. She added that she had punished the child because he would ”interrupt cleaning.”
Other family members defend the Defendant. For example, her father, said that the police were misrepresenting the situation and that his daughter is a single mother who is overwhelmed by her four children . He also observed that the first floor of the home is clean and the four children seem happy and never appeared abused. Moreover, he explained, the boy in the attic was born three months premature, has chronic lung problems and exhibited behavioral problems despite reassurances from doctors who have examined him.
”He’s like a child with ADHD on steroids. He’s very hyperactive,” explained the Defendant’s father.
Two of the other children, ages 6 and 9, were placed in state custody, as was a third child who wasn’t home at the time.
Attorney Sam’s Take:
It may not be quite as entertaining as the theatrics of the Gates case or even the cinematic events surrounding Michael Jackson death. It is just down-home, albeit tragic, family criminal justice.
The fact scenario is not an unfamiliar one. According to the Defendant’ s family, the Defendant is an unemployed single mother who has been abandoned by the father of 3 of her 4 children. At least one of the kids needs special services. Clearly, the Defendant is overwhelmed.
You can condemn the Defendant, society or both. However, the criminal justice aspect of the case is clear. The Department of Children and Families is now quite likely a permanent fixture of this family dynamic to whatever extent the family is allowed to asscociate. The Defendant, over-burdened or not, remains incarcerated unless she can make bail in an amount that likely seems astronomical to her.
“Sad story, Sam”, you say to me. “But what does it have to do with me?”
As is often my response, the answer is “Plenty”.
Let’s put aside the sociological aspects of this case. It is illustrative of how bad moments of bad judgment can destroy lives. I realize that the children in the story indicate that expulsion to the attic happened a lot, but, the result would not be much different had this been the first time.
Especially when the victim of a crime is of a special class, such as children, neither law enforcement, DCF or the courts are likely to take any chances. The response is swift and has many consequences…some being life-long consequences.
And the scariest part? After about a quarter century in this business, I can tell you that there are not many people who could never be found to have such moments of bad judgment in one way or another which them a candidate for involuntary housing with the Commonwealth.
So, the message is the same as always. If you are being investigated, or charged, as a result of either what was or could be interpreted as one of these moments, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise and defend you.
If you find yourself in such an unfortunate circumstances and wish to discuss your matter with me, feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942.
For the full article underlying this blog, see http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/31/us/AP-US-Locked-in-Attic.html