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Courts and Crime

Attorneys Deliver Closing Arguments In Carrillo Murder Trial

Patty Wight
Maine Public

The fate of Sharon Carrillo now rests with a Waldo County Superior Court jury.

Carillo is facing 25 years to life in prison if she’s found guilty of depraved indifference murder for the abuse death of her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy. Jurors must decide whether Carrillo is responsible for her daughter’s death or, as defense attorneys argue, that both she and her daughter were the victims of abuse solely at the hands of Carrillo’s husband.

Maine Public reporter Patty Wight has been in the courtroom and spoke with All Things Considered host Nora Flaherty about what she heard in court Tuesday in Belfast during closing statements.

Flaherty: What did state prosecutors tell the jury to convince them to find Carrillo guilty?

Wight: Well, they opened with Marissa’s own words, “I think I’m dying.” She said this to her mom, Carrillo, just a few days before she actually did die. The state also reminded the jury of the extent of Marissa’s injuries. She had 40-50 blunt force injuries when she died. And they said they really needed to highlight the fact that Carrillo never stopped the abuse. They said that she had the opportunity to tell, social workers had opportunities to tell as did school personnel.

The state also brought up Carrillo’s confession and said, “What person who didn’t abuse their child would say things like, ‘I should have stopped’ or ‘I should have been a better mother and walked away.’” And they said the fact that Carrillo is now saying that she gave a false confession due to her being the victim of abuse also is merely to protect herself, just like they say she tried to protect herself when police first asked her about her daughter’s death and she denied that she had any involvement in that.

And defense attorneys say Carrillo falsely confessed because she was the victim of domestic violence herself.

Credit Patty Wight / Maine Public
Maine Public
Leane Zainea, assistant attorney general, holds a belt prosecutors say was used to abuse Marissa Kennedy.

That’s right. They’re saying that Marissa’s stepfather and Carrillo’s husband, Julio Carrillo, pleaded guilty to her murder this summer, and defense attorneys told the jury that the evidence presented by the state can be viewed through an entirely different lens, when you look through the lens of domestic violence.

They said that Carrillo was so controlling that he robbed both mother and daughter of their voices. He pointed out that Marissa had many opportunities to disclose the abuse that she endured, but she never did. And he said the same was true for Sharon Carrillo, and they were so controlled by Julio Carrillo that they didn’t have the courage to say what was happening.

Defense attorney Chris McLean also said there’s no photographic or DNA evidence that Sharon Carrillo participated in the abuse. He also asked the jury a question. He said, “Can we really fault Sharon Carrillo and Marissa Kennedy for not telling people about their abuse when they saw Julio Carrillo repeatedly tell people who did inquire — social workers, police officers — tell them about what was happening at the house, blaming it on Sharon and Marissa?” And he said, “How can you blame them for not disclosing what was happening when they saw Julio Carrillo tell stories of people believing him?”

So what is the threshold the jury needs to weigh when it’s deciding its verdict?

Credit Patty Wight / Maine Public
Maine Public
Defense attorney Chris MacLean in court in Belfast on Tuesday.

Well, Sharon Carrillo is charged with depraved indifference murder and state prosecutors told jurors that they must decide whether she participated or facilitated her daughter’s death. And they pointed out that the jury doesn’t have to agree to the extent to which she was involved, whether she directly caused Marissa’s death or she facilitated it. They also said she doesn’t need to decide about how she was involved. It does not matter whether or not she was a victim of domestic violence. It was just whether she participated in or facilitated Marissa’s death.

In order for the jury to find Carrillo not guilty, they just need to find reasonable doubt of the charge that she’s facing, and her defense attorneys again pointed out domestic violence. They also pointed out that psychologists testified that Carrillo’s own abuse as well as her low intellect make her susceptible to getting false confessions. And they urge the jury to have the courage to find Carrillo not guilty.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Originally published Dec. 17, 2019 at 6:47 p.m. ET.