Wednesday, 15 December 2010

FILICIDE: Ontario: Mendieta

Dan Robson :  Dec 14 2010
Emmily Lucas was killed by either Erika Mendieta or Johnny Bermudez. On that much they agree.
But Crown and defence lawyers painted two starkly different portraits of the tragedy as they made their final arguments to Justice Nola Garton at Mendieta’s second-degree murder trial on Tuesday.
Emmily was beaten to the point of convulsions on Nov. 13, 2003. The 2-year-old’s body was covered in bruises. Her head and spinal column were severely injured. She died of brain trauma at Sick Kids 10 days later.
“Erika Mendieta did not kill her daughter,” defence lawyer Robin Parker told the court. “We say Johnny Bermudez killed Emmily Lucas.”
Bermudez, Mendieta’s former live-in boyfriend, has told the court he killed Emmily. As a witness he is protected by the Canada Evidence Act, so his testimony can’t be used to prosecute him.
The defence contends Mendieta left Emmily and the couple’s 18-month-old boy with Bermudez when she went to pick up her four other kids from school. Emmily cried. Bermudez beat her.
The Crown contends Bermudez is lying.
“His testimony is just another attempt to exonerate Mrs. Mendieta,” said Crown prosecutor Allison MacPherson, noting the pair met several times for coffee between Mendieta’s first and second trial.
“You don’t drink coffee with the man that murdered your baby,” MacPherson said.
“But you might if you had killed your baby and he was going to help get you out of it.”
Bermudez has refused to waive his protection under the Canada Evidence Act, and has never offered a sworn confession to police.
The Crown says Mendieta beat Emmily in fit of frustration and rage when she was late picking up the other children from school.
As evidence against her, prosecutors cite inconsistencies between Mendieta’s original police statements and her later testimony, as well as wiretapped conversations in which, they say, she appears to confess.
The defence has argued that too much of the wiretaps are inaudible and in dispute for that evidence to be credible.
If Garton is not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Bermudez did not kill Emmily, she must acquit Mendieta, Parker argued.
Mendieta’s first trial ended with a hung jury in 2009.
Her second trial spiraled into a judicial debacle last month, when the jury asked that a man be removed from the courtroom for making distracting faces during Mendieta’s testimony.
They didn’t know that the man was Paul Alexander, an assistant Crown attorney who prosecuted Mendieta at her first trial but was no longer on the case.
Garton declared a mistrial. Alexander’s actions are being investigated by the chief prosecutor, and he is no longer on in-court duty.
Garton then agreed to rule on the case alone, using evidence from the second trial. She will return with her verdict on Jan. 17.
“It’s going to be a tough month,” said Selena Lucas, Emmily’s one-time guardian and the sister of her biological father, Derrick Parra.
“We just have to wait,” she said, breaking into tears. “And that will be it.”

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