Massachusetts: Jury acquits Kerrigan brother in father's death

By Denise Lavoie

AP Legal Affairs Writer

WOBURN, Mass. (AP) -- The brother of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was acquitted Wednesday of manslaughter in the death of their 70-year-old father by a jury that apparently agreed with his defense that his father died of heart disease.

Mark Kerrigan, 46, was convicted, though, of assault and battery in a January 2010 conflict with his father, Daniel Kerrigan, at the family's home in Stoneham, just north of Boston.

Nancy Kerrigan and her mother, Brenda, embraced and cried after the verdict was read; the skater had supported her brother and attended every day of the weeklong trial in Woburn Superior Court.

Mark Kerrigan is to be sentenced Thursday; the maximum is 2-1/2 years in prison.

Prosecutors said 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 heart failure.

Kerrigan's defense lawyers, however, cited medical experts who testified that Daniel Kerrigan had 85 percent to 100 percent blockage of three main coronary arteries and that the cardiac dysrhythmia that killed him likely began before he had any physical interaction with his son.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley told the jury that despite his coronary artery disease, Daniel Kerrigan remained physically active right up until his death. She cited testimony from the state's chief medical examiner, who said there was no doubt in his mind that Daniel Kerrigan died after a fight that sent his heart into a fatal dysrhythmia.

"It took this defendant -- an angry, mean, nasty, drunk son of his -- to take Daniel Kerrigan down, to end his life," Keeley said.

Brenda Kerrigan testified that she saw her husband grab her son by his shoulders, then saw her son with his arms around his father's waist in a kind of "bear hug." She said the altercation had lasted only seconds when she saw her husband fall to the floor "like a feather coming right out of the sky."

Police testified that Mark Kerrigan told them he grabbed his father around the neck during the altercation. The defense said the injury to Daniel Kerrigan's neck could have been caused when emergency medical personnel put a tube down his throat or after he died during an autopsy, when his larynx was removed.

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.

Published: Thu, May 26, 2011