Defence suggests mother caused baby's injuries

By Sue Yanagisawa
Local News - Thursday, December 16, 2004 @ 07:00

That a three-month-old boy was shaken and suffered life-threatening injuries isn’t at issue, defence lawyer Michael Mandelcorn told the jury yesterday at Lucas Landry’s aggravated assault trial.

“What is at issue, in this trial,” Mandelcorn said in his closing argument, “is who caused those injuries.”

Landry, 23, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he injured his son in April 2002.

Landry and his now estranged partner took their ailing son to Kingston General Hospital in the early hours of April 7, 2002. There, after a battery of tests, doctors found evidence of two sets of injuries inflicted at different times. The baby had healing skull and femur fractures as well as fresh skull and femur fractures.

A key component of the Crown’s theory is that the fresh injuries were inflicted on the morning of April 5, two days before the boy was taken to hospital. Landry was alone with the baby in the couple’s apartment that morning.

Mandelcorn reminded the jury, however, that no technology can pinpoint the timing of the child’s injuries. Doctors who were willing to estimate timing said they could have occurred a day earlier, he noted.

Landry testified that he slept through part of that Thursday, went to work in the early evening and didn’t return home until after midnight. When he got home, his son was asleep, he said.

Mandelcorn reminded the jury of Landry’s testimony that he’d found his partner “was not as happy to see him as she usually was,” and that she appeared to have been crying when he got home.

He also asked jurors to recall the testimony of the baby’s maternal grandparents about an argument on the night of April 4 between mother and daughter over the older woman not following her own child-rearing advice.

On May 22, 2002, Landry confessed to shaking his son and laying him down with “aggressive force” on his change table.

Testifying in his own defence, however, Landry repudiated that confession, claiming he was “badgered” into it after his arrest and four-hour interrogation. He also claimed he thought taking the blame would allow his child to remain in the care of family.

Mandelcorn asked the jury to study the videotapes of the interview and interrogation that Kingston Police Det. Sgt Carolyn Rice conducted with his client.

Referring to Landry, he said “this is a person, who I’m going to suggest, is not terribly sophisticated.”

Rice did nothing illegal, he assured them, but the rules that govern such interrogations “allow falsehoods to be planted,” such as the idea that by Landry claiming responsibility, the medical treatment his son was receiving might somehow be improved.

“I am going to suggest that is why he confessed,” Mandelcorn told jurors. He also suggested that, in the details Landry provided of how the baby was injured, his client was only “parodying” things Rice had thrown out in the May 22 and earlier interviews.

Mandelcorn argued that testimony the baby’s mother gave about events of April 5 was “contrived” and “not credible.” She said she found Landry sitting in a chair holding their son, the child’s head lolling, It’s a significant detail, he said, and she never mentioned it before last month, when she was asked by police to review her own video statements.

He suggested that the woman is the one who shook the baby.

“If you think that’s a possibility,” Mandelcorn said, “that [the child’s mother] caused those injuries, then a reasonable doubt has been raised and you’re obliged to come back with a finding of not guilty.”

Presenting the prosecution’s closing argument, assistant Crown attorney Laurie Lacelle said “there isn’t a shred of evidence anyone else caused these injuries.”

She reminded the jury that “Lucas Landry didn’t just tell police he caused these injuries, he told ... [the baby’s] mother he caused these injuries,” and two months later he told family court.

She bristled at the defence suggestion that the child’s mother could be responsible, suggesting that while Landry didn’t have the temerity to advance the idea himself, “through his counsel he would have you believe that [his estranged partner] did it.”

Lacelle said the child’s mother acknowledges that she was often alone with her son, but the boy didn’t show evidence of any injuries after he’d been alone with her. He did, Lacelle said, after a morning alone with his father.

“There is no evidence she has ever done anything to harm [her baby],” Lacelle argued. “She has never told anyone she harmed [her baby] and he never had symptoms after being left alone with her.”

Lacelle urged the jury to take note, as well, of the way Landry initially confessed – in letters addressed to his son, the child’s mother and in a document he called his “testimonial,” all written in the interview room where Det. Sgt. Rice had earlier interrogated him.

“Consider what he says, what he writes,” Lacelle told the jury. “Consider who he writes” and his demeanor, caught on videotape, as he was writing.

“Is this the demeanor of an innocent man who’s falsely confessing, or the demeanor of a man who’s unburdening his conscience and admitting what he did?”

Lacelle said if Landry confessed falsely to keep his son with his family, then he’d have to believe someone else in his family’s circle had hurt his son.

She asked: “Does it make any sense that Lucas Landry confesses falsely and leaves [his son] in the same position he was in when he was hurt?”

She also asked jurors to consider: “Does it make sense that a man who is being badgered finally confesses after being left alone [in a room] for 45 minutes?

“Does a man who’s been badgered into confessing by police confess not once, but twice?

“What makes sense is that for a brief moment in time Lucas Landry decided to do the right thing.”

Mr. Justice Kenneth Pedlar will charge the jury this morning, instructing them on the law as it applies to this case before sending them to deliberate.