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WOBURN, Mass. (AP) — A jury began deliberations Monday in the manslaughter trial of Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan’s brother after a prosecutor told the panel that the defendant was an “angry, mean, nasty, drunk son” when he killed his father and a defence attorney said longstanding heart disease was to blame. Mark Kerrigan, 46, is charged in the 2010 death of his 70-year-old father, Daniel Kerrigan, at the family’s home in Stoneham, just north of Boston.
The Kerrigan family has supported Mark Kerrigan, insisting that he is not responsible for Daniel Kerrigan’s death. Nancy Kerrigan has been in court every day of the weeklong trial and has often comforted her mother during difficult testimony.
During closing arguments Monday, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley told the jury that Mark Kerrigan caused his father’s death after he grabbed him around the neck with such force that he broke cartilage in his father’s larynx and triggered his heart failure.
Keeley said that although Daniel Kerrigan had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease seven years earlier, he had remained physically active, mowing his lawn, plowing his driveway and using a chain saw to chop up a tree limb in the months before his death.
She challenged a description of the fight by Kerrigan’s mother, Brenda, who testified that the altercation between father and son lasted only a matter of seconds, that she saw them in a “bear hug” and that she never saw her son put his hands around her husband’s neck.
“You know, ladies and gentlemen, that it would take a lot more than a bear hug to bring that man down,” Keeley said. “It took this defendant — an angry, mean, nasty, drunk son of his — to take Daniel Kerrigan down, to end his life.”
But Kerrigan’s lawyer, Janice Bassil, cited medical testimony from experts on both sides who said that Daniel Kerrigan had 85 per cent to 100 per cent blockage of three main coronary arteries. She also cited testimony from defence experts who said Daniel Kerrigan’s fatal dysrhythmia likely began before he had any physical interaction with this son.
Members of Kerrigan’s family testified that he had slowed down physically and appeared tired and grayish in colour in the weeks before his death.
Bassil cited Brenda Kerrigan’s testimony that she saw her husband grab her son by the shoulders, then saw her son with his arms around his father’s waist. She testified that her husband then fell to the floor “like a feather coming right out of the sky.”
“She did not see Mark grab his father by his neck. She did not see him push him to the floor,” Bassil said.
Bassil also said prosecutors have built their case against Mark Kerrigan based on his alleged statement to police that he grabbed his father around the neck during the altercation. But she said Kerrigan was drunk and the statement was not tape-recorded by police.
“They can’t prove that Mark Kerrigan deliberately hit his father. They can’t prove that Mark Kerrigan deliberately broke his father’s cartilage or that he killed him,” Bassil said. “Mark Kerrigan loved his father then and he loves him now.”
Keeley, however, cited testimony from the state’s chief medical examiner, who said there was no doubt in his mind that Daniel Kerrigan died after a physical altercation that sent his heart into a fatal dysrhythmia.
“Is there any doubt that Mark Kerrigan grabbed his father around the neck? He told the police he did,” said Keeley.
Mark Kerrigan is charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault and battery on a person 60 years or older causing serious bodily injury. The manslaughter charge carries a sentence of anywhere from probation to 20 years in prison, while the assault and battery charge carries a maximum of 10 years.
Nancy Kerrigan won a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, and the silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. At the U.S. Championships in 1994, an assailant clubbed her right knee during practice. An investigation revealed that rival Tonya Harding had knowledge of the planning of the attack.