The Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday in Sharon Kennedy’s bid for a new trial after being convicted of murder in the abuse death of her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy.
Kennedy’s attorney Chris MacLean told the justices that Marissa’s death exposed the systematic failures of the state’s child protection system, and that the conviction of her mother, who was also the target of abuse by Marissa’s stepfather, Julio Carrillo, shows the barriers to justice that victims of domestic violence experience.
“The court specifically found that being a domestic violence torture victim was not a mitigating factor that could play any role in reducing the sentence imposed on her. And that’s outrageous, and it needs to be corrected,” he said.
Justice Ellen Gorman said that state law only allows duress to be used as a mitigating factor when a person is threatened by imminent death or serious injury. She questioned whether it would be appropriate for judges to apply a more broad interpretation of “imminent” in Sharon Kennedy’s situation.
State assistant attorney general Leanne Robbin told the court that Kennedy’s conviction and 48 year prison sentence should stand because she admitted to police that she abused her daughter.
“The detectives used no trickery, threats, promises or inducements to obtain her admissions,” she said.
Kennedy was sentenced to 48 years in prison earlier this year.