Monday, 17 January 2011

SIDS: New York State: Randy and Nicole Colucci

January 5, 2011
NIAGARA FALLS — LOCKPORT — A Niagara County Court judge has handed partial victories to both prosecutors and defense attorneys in advance of the upcoming murder and manslaughter trial of a Niagara Falls couple.
Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza ruled Tuesday that prosecutors may be able to introduce some evidence of the possible mistreatment of Randy and Nicole Colucci’s deceased 22-month-old daughter Carmen at their trial. In a written decision, the judge said evidence of “open lesions found on Carmen’s genital and groin area are admissible” as long as prosecutors do not suggest they are a result of sexual abuse.
She also ruled evidence of “a lack of consistent medical care, unsanitary sleeping conditions and poor hygiene” could be admitted.
Sperrazza wrote the evidence, while not connected to Carmen’s death, was “probative of the defendant’s overall treatment and care of the child.”
However, Sperrazza barred prosecutors from telling a jury anything about the death of another Colucci child. In 2007, 3-month-old Sebastian was found dead at home and the cause of death was listed as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The judge said since neither Randy nor Nicole was ever charged with any wrongdoing in connection with Sebastian’s death, making a jury aware of that would deprive the Coluccis of a fair trial.
“The prejudicial effects (of allowing evidence of the SIDS death in at trial) would be overwhelming,” the judge wrote.
Sperrazza said she would not allow “for the time being,” prosecutors to use evidence the Coluccis used harsh discipline on their surviving children at the murder and manslaughter trial. The couple, who face charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Carmen’s death, face a second trial on five counts of endangering the welfare of a child for their treatment of their other children.
In her decision, Sperrazza noted the child abuse allegations include claims that the Coluccis hit their children with a stick, forced one to eat dog food and would duct tape the children’s legs together during “time-outs.”
The judge did rule that evidence of harsh discipline directed at Carmen, prior to her death, could be used as evidence.
Attorneys for Randy, 25, and Nicole, 24, had argued prosecutors wanted to bring the abuse, medical and SIDS death evidence into the case to portray the couple as “a white trash family” who should not have had children.
“It’s an attempt to expand the scope of the proof,” defense attorney Joseph Terranova said. “The prosecution is trying to show that this was a white trash family and that’s irrelevant and prejudicial to us. This should not be used as examples to show these people are bad parents, should not have had children and we’re lucky there haven’t been (other child deaths in the family).”
Assistant District Attorney Robert Zucco denied trying to portray the Coluccis as “white trash,” but did argue that the care of their children was an element in their daughter’s murder case.
“Under the murder count, they are charged with depraved indifference (to human life),” Zucco said. “Prior conduct towards this child is evidence of this indifference. If they had exercised some care, this would not have happened.”
The Coluccis are accused of leaving the care of their dead daughter and a 1-year-old son to their eldest daughter, who was only 9.
Niagara Falls police detectives said officers responded to the Colucci’s home on March 31 after receiving a call of “a 2-year-old not breathing.” When officers arrived, they found Carmen unresponsive with her grandmother performing CPR.
The little girl was rushed to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and then transferred to Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. She died April 8.
Falls police said their investigation showed that Carmen was “put in a (portable playpen) with her 12-month-old brother, with a twin mattress on top of the playpen and a TV on top of the mattress to keep the children from getting out.” The Coluccis did not check on their children for 17 hours and Carmen apparently “got her head stuck between the (playpen) and the mattress.”
Sperrazza said she would rule Monday on whether statements the Coluccis made to police investigators can be used at their trial.
Jury selection for the murder case is set to begin Jan. 24.

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