Friday, 24 June 2011

SBS: Wisconsin: Andrew Goldston verdict, first degree reckless homicide

June 10, 2011 : Eric Litke
A jury convicted Andrew Goldston on Thursday of killing his infant son, believing doctors' testimony the child's injuries were too severe for the short, accidental fall Goldston described.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated five hours before returning the verdict against the 24-year-old Sheboygan man on a felony count of first-degree reckless homicide. Goldston will face a maximum of 40 years in prison at a future sentencing before Judge James Bolgert.
No sentencing date has been set.
Prosecutors said — with backing from doctors who examined the boy — that Goldston shook and/or slammed 1-month-old Leander to the ground while alone with the boy on March 9, 2010.
Leander suffered swelling and bleeding in and around the brain, as well as severe retinal bleeding; he died after nine days at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa.
Assistant District Attorney Joel Urmanski said after the verdict he is pleased that "justice was done."
"I'm happy because Leander didn't have any say in what happened. Ultimately, when we're representing the state, we're also representing Leander, so that's satisfying," said Urmanski, who prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bork. "When someone's convicted of this crime — and we'll certainly be recommending a very significant incarceration — it's never easy to see someone go to jail for years and years, but the jury agreed with the allegations of what happened. It's a serious crime."
Jurors said they struggled with the decision to convict Goldston.
"We're not happy about what we had to do today," said one female juror who declined to give her name.
"It's not easy," another added.
Defense attorney Barbara Kirchner declined comment after the hearing, as did Leander's mother, Tammy DePagter.
The case went to the jury about 10 a.m. Thursday after closing arguments from Urmanski and Kirchner. The trial, which began Monday, left the jury to sift through an array of conflicting testimony.
The inconsistencies — as reiterated by Urmanski in his closing — began with Goldston, who told a 911 dispatcher that he dropped Leander onto a bouncy chair while getting off the couch to reach for a remote control.
He later told police the infant actually fell to the floor.
A third version of events emerged from a fellow jail inmate, Jeffery Lucas, who testified that Goldston admitted squeezing, shaking and dropping the infant as the two spoke after a jailhouse Bible study late last year. Goldston said he needed God's forgiveness for hurting his child, Lucas said.
The conversation took place in the jail pod where both were housed, but that fact was withheld from the jury after Bolgert ruled it could bias them against Goldston.
Bolgert also barred prosecutors from telling the jury that Leander suffered rib injuries. The injuries were consistent with so-called shaken baby syndrome, but doctors could not say for sure if they were inflicted at the same time as the fatal injuries.
In closing, Urmanski replayed a video of Goldston demonstrating how he claimed the child fell, dropping 18 to 30 inches onto thin carpeting.
Goldston appears to choke up when asked by a detective about previously showing emotion discussing the child, but he abruptly returns to a normal voice when asked another question.
"Why all these misstatements? He can't keep it straight," Urmanski told the jury. "Those tears, he was real good trying to pour on emotion there, but he's asked a question and (immediately) he responds."
The baby was injured shortly after DePagter got in an argument with Goldston and left.
Goldston told a detective he called 911 about five minutes after the child was injured because Leander was not breathing.
Lucas also testified that Goldston described being frustrated that Leander's birth had kept him from going out more with friends.
"There is no answer other than the defendant was frustrated, the defendant was angry," Urmanski said. "Leander was the point of contention, Leander was the one changing his lifestyle. Leander was the one not allowing him to leave."
Kirchner told the jury Goldston "mistakenly" referenced the "stupid bouncy" initially.
She said Lucas, who showed the jury how Goldston demonstrated shaking the child, was actually referring to Goldston reaching out in an attempt to catch the child.
Kirchner made no reference to Lucas' other statements that Goldston admitted squeezing and shaking the baby.
"What happened in this case was a horrible, tragic accident," Kirchner told the jury.
Urmanski and Kirchner also traded barbs over their expert witnesses.
The forensic pathologist who conducted Leander's autopsy concluded it was an abuse-related homicide, and the director of the child abuse division at Children's Hospital — Dr. Lynn Sheets — said the injuries could not have occurred in a short fall as Goldston described.
A doctor testifying for the defense as a paid witness, Dr. John Plunkett, countered that the fall caused some of the injuries and started a cascade effect that led to others.
Sheets called Plunkett's explanation an unproven theory, and Urmanski reminded the jury Thursday that Plunkett had admitted being proven wrong in a similar case in Montana.
Plunkett testified that a child's fatal injuries couldn't have been caused by shaking, but the child's father later admitted to shaking his daughter to death.

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