WOBURN, Mass. – 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 the elder man died of heart disease, not from a scuffle between the two.
Mark Kerrigan, 46, was convicted, though, of a misdemeanor assault and battery charge in a January 2010 altercation with 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 nine-day trial in Woburn Superior Court.
"My family has never believed at all that my brother had anything to do with my father's death, and he would — my dad would — never have wanted any of this," Nancy Kerrigan said outside the courthouse after the verdict, standing with other family members.
Defense attorney Janice Bassil said mother and daughter plan to give victim impact statements when Mark Kerrigan is sentenced Thursday. He faces a maximum 2½ years in a county jail.
"I think they feel some relief," Bassil said outside court. "This has been an enormous ordeal."
Another member of the defense team, Hank Brennan, said, "Mark Kerrigan loves his dad and misses his dad, and that really is the foremost thing on his mind."
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, called 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.
Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said the Kerrigan family's support for Mark Kerrigan made for "complicated dynamics" during the trial and could have been taken into consideration by the jury. Despite the verdict, prosecutors believe Kerrigan caused his father's death, he said.
"We continue to believe that were it not for the actions of this defendant, we would not be here today and Mr. Kerrigan would not have died in the manner that he did — on the floor of his home," Leone said at a news conference after the verdict was announced.
"Daniel Kerrigan met a troubling end, but the most sad part of this is the fact that the last face he saw before he died was an angry face of a person who should have loved and protected him, and that's not what he saw," Leone said.
The jurors who decided the case could not be reached for comment.
They were not identified in court, and Judge S. Jane Haggerty did not immediately rule Wednesday on a request by media organizations, including The Associated Press, asking for jurors' names to be released publicly, a common practice after a trial ends. The judge did not indicate when she would rule on the request.
During the trial, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley told the jury that despite his coronary artery disease, Daniel Kerrigan had remained physically active 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 physical altercation that sent his heart into a fatal dysrhythmia, a loss or interruption of a normal heartbeat.
"It took this defendant — an angry, mean, nasty, drunk son of his — to take Daniel Kerrigan down, to end his life," Keeley said during closing arguments.
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 even 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.
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