Was it a surprise to you? The Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog anticipated it just after the event and explained that it was likely to happen.
The news is that,the cause of death of the 70-year-old father of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan (hereinafter, the “Deceased”) is being ruled a homicide. However, Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. has not yet decided whether the son, Mark D. Kerrigan (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) will face murder charges. The Defendant has already been charged with assault and battery.
In a statement released this afternoon, Leone’s office said that the state medical examiner has concluded the death of the Deceased was a homicide after he suffered a heart attack inside his Stoneham home early on January 24th. Leone stated that “The Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was cardiac dysrhythmia following a physical altercation with neck compression causing injury to the neck in the form of a cartilage fracture to the larynx area, in a person with hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular heart disease,” Leone said in the statement.
He further announced that the investigation is ongoing and that his office is deciding whether homicide charges are appropriate.
A few hours after Leone made his announcement, the Kerrigan family issued a statement through their Boston attorney that, “”The Kerrigan family is extremely disappointed that the medical examiner would release a cause of death without having all of the relevant facts. We believe this finding to be premature and inaccurate”
The family added that “The Kerrigan family does not blame anyone for the unfortunate death of Dan Kerrigan, who had a pre-existing heart condition.”
The Defendant has pleaded not guilty to all charges in Woburn District Court. After his court appearance last month, he was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for psychiatric observation.
My position on this one might surprise you a bit.
I am often critical of law enforcement, including prosecutors, particularly in high publicity matters. As a former prosecutor myself, I remember the often-forgotten charge to such individuals that their first obligation is to seek Justice, not headlines. However, in this case, it would appear that the District Attorney is proceeding appropriately.
Given the medical examiner’s findings, there is no doubt a good faith basis for homicide charges. It would likely not be Murder One, but it would appear that the struggle did cause the death. The only cause? No. However, his condition was known to the Defendant and when one attacks someone, both under civil and criminal law, that person takes the risk that health complications like this could happen.
The question District Attorney Leone seems to be pondering is if such a prosecution is “appropriate”. One would like to believe that he is talking about seeking what is Just under the circumstances, which are somewhat complicated.
As far as I am concerned, such consideration is to be applauded.
“But, Sam, what about the coroner? The Kerrigan family says there was no full investigation.”
Well, we do not know what they mean by that or even how they would know. It seems like a somewhat thorough explanation to me.
“What about the arguments being made that the Defendant suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse problems?”
It is something for the prosecution to consider when determining which level of homicide to charge, but it really is likely to play a bigger role at trial as a defense. In the meantime, the Defendant’s capacity is being examined at Bridgewater.
“What do you make of the rest of the Kerrigans’ statment?”
Ahh…that is a question for this Friday’s Attorney Sam’s Take.
In any event, regardless of the charges, the Defendant is going to need an experienced attorney. This case is going to be quite sensitive, particularly with the public interest. The issues are likely to be complex. I have prosecuted and defended such homicide cases. Take my word for it.
As always, , if you or a loved one are facing such a situation, and you would like to discuss it with me because of my experience, please feel free to contact me at 617-492-3000.
To read the original story upon which today’s blog was based, please visit the website http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/02/kerrigans_fathe_1.html