Defense argues Kerrigan too drunk to talk to cops

DENISE LAVOIE - AP Legal Affairs Writer
FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2010 file photo, Mark Kerrigan, brother of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, departs Middlesex Superior Court, in Woburn, Mass.  Prosecutors said his father, 70-year-old Daniel Kerrigan, was fatally injured in a violent fight with his drunken son at the family's Stoneham home. Defense lawyers asked during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011, that a judge throw out statements Mark Kerrigan made to police after the death of his father.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2010 file photo, Mark Kerrigan, brother of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, departs Middlesex Superior Court, in Woburn, Mass. Prosecutors said his father, 70-year-old Daniel Kerrigan, was fatally injured in a violent fight with his drunken son at the family's Stoneham home. Defense lawyers asked during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011, that a judge throw out statements Mark Kerrigan made to police after the death of his father.

A Massachusetts psychiatrist testified Friday that the brother of Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan was "profoundly impaired" from heavy drinking and could not have voluntarily waived his right to remain silent when he spoke to police the night his father died.

The testimony from Dr. John Fromson of Massachusetts General Hospital came as Mark Kerrigan's lawyers asked a judge to throw out statements he made to police, including his alleged admission that he grabbed his father around the neck as the two men argued.

Mark Kerrigan has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in the January 2010 death of 70-year-old Daniel Kerrigan.

Kerrigan's lawyers and his family say the elder Kerrigan died of a longstanding heart condition and that Mark was not responsible.

Fromson, testifying for the defense, said hospital tests done approximately three hours after the altercation showed Mark Kerrigan had a blood alcohol content of .18. Fromson said that if the test had been done right after the fight, Kerrigan's blood alcohol level would likely have been as high as .24, a level that is three times the legal driving limit of .08 in Massachusetts.

"He was profoundly impaired," Fromson said.

Under questioning from Kerrigan's lawyers, Fromson said that in that state of intoxication, Kerrigan could not have understood his Miranda rights or voluntarily waived those rights.

Attorney Janice Bassil argued that police persisted in trying to get a statement from Kerrigan, even after he said he didn't want to talk.

"They knew he was plastered — they knew it — and they wanted to get a statement," Bassil said.

Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley, Fromson acknowledged that he had spent just a little over an hour talking to Kerrigan months after Daniel Kerrigan died, that he did not take any notes on their conversation and that he did not know the extent of Kerrigan's drinking, including his four convictions on drunken driving charges.

Prosecutors said Kerrigan spontaneously and voluntarily spoke to police at the family's Stoneham home and later at the police station.

Judge Joseph Walker III did not say when he would rule on the request to toss out Kerrigan's statements.

In testimony Thursday, a Stoneham police officer said Kerrigan told him he "grabbed his father by the throat" and he fell to the floor as the two men argued over use of the family telephone.

Several police officers testified that Kerrigan was belligerent, yelled vulgarities at them, refused to walk and had to be carried to a police cruiser when they responded to a 911 call.