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Perris Mom to Testify in Tot's Death

The woman is on trial for murder because the boy ingested meth. Two of her children answer questions about drug use and drinking.

August 28, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Amy Prien, the Perris woman on trial for murder in the methamphetamine death of her infant son, will testify in her own defense next week, her attorney said Wednesday.

The attorney, Stephen Yagman, said he was undecided on the matter until he discussed it at lunch Wednesday with his law partner. Prien will follow two other defense witnesses, both medical experts, and her testimony will begin as early as Tuesday.

"I can't tell you what her testimony will be," Yagman said.

Prien's 3-month-old son, Jacob Wesley Smith, died Jan. 19, 2002. The prosecution argues that the boy died after ingesting a lethal lose of methamphetamine while under her care, possibly through her breast milk.

On Wednesday, Yagman continued calling witnesses to bolster his case that Prien was a loving and caring mother to her four children.Two of Prien's children -- Alexis, 15, and Eric, 7 -- took the stand. Eric said he loved his mother and had never seen her drunk or high on drugs. Asked if he knew what it meant to be "high," Eric closed his eyes halfway, and swiveled his head like a bobble-head doll.

Alexis said the only time she saw Prien drink alcohol was during her fifth birthday party at a children's pizza parlor.

Alexis also described the morning Jacob was found dead in Prien's bed.

"I woke up because I heard my mom crying, jumped out of my bed to see what was wrong and went into the living room," Alexis said. "My mom was [kneeling] on the floor, crying. I sat on the floor next to her and tried to calm her down."

Janelle Dzik, Prien's mother, told jurors she never suspected that her daughter was using or selling drugs.

"I would've scooped up the children and taken them home with me if I had."

Michele Levine, a Riverside County judge who was the original prosecutor in the case, also was called to the witness stand by Prien's attorney.

Levine testified that she never directed anyone to destroy evidence in the case, including a baby bottle Prien has said proves she wasn't breast-feeding Jacob at the time of his death. The bottle was lost while in the possession of the Riverside County coroner.

"I thought [the bottle] would make the case even stronger against Miss Prien," Levine said, although she wasn't allowed to elaborate.

Prosecutor Allison Nelson has argued in court that drugs allegedly sold from Prien's home were packaged in plastic baby bottle liners.

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