YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Girl Strangled Mother in Self-Defense, Lawyer Says

Her attorneys say the New York child, 12, is an 'exemplary youth' and that the woman killed had a history of violence and alcoholism.

June 01, 2005|Samuel Bruchey | Newsday

MINEOLA, N.Y. — A 12-year-old girl accused of strangling her mother was acting in self-defense, protecting herself from a violent woman with a history of physical abuse and alcoholism, lawyers for the girl said Tuesday in Nassau County Family Court.

"We feel very strongly that this was justified," said Donald Birnbaum, one of two lawyers representing the child.

"It's inconceivable that she's capable of doing anything but crying."

Birnbaum said the girl, who made her first appearance before Judge John Marks on Tuesday, had an unblemished record at junior high school, no history of disciplinary problems and a close, loving relationship with her family.

"She is an exemplary youth," he said.

Wearing a red T-shirt and matching sweatpants, the diminutive girl stood still, with a blank expression, throughout the brief proceeding. Her short hair was pulled into a ponytail, and her slender arms were handcuffed behind her back.

The hearing was to determine temporary custody for her, and Marks ordered that she remain in the Nassau Juvenile Detention Center until at least Friday, when prosecutors were expected to file legal papers.

As a condition for being granted access to the proceeding, Marks ordered reporters not to identify the girl or her father, who also was present.

In court, the girl said little. She nodded and quietly said "yes" when asked if she understood the purpose of the hearing, then cried when she learned she would not be going home.

"She's obviously distraught," said Oscar Michelen, the girl's other lawyer. "She doesn't want to be in detention. She's very upset that her mother is gone."

Afterward, Assistant County Atty. Stephanie Hubelbank declined to comment on the case.

The girl is accused of strangling her mother after the two argued Saturday night when the girl's mother told her to clean her bedroom.

There were no direct witnesses to the killing, Birnbaum said.

There is, however, evidence that the girl had been physically abused by her mother in the past, Birnbaum said. He declined to elaborate other than to say that the previous incident was corroborated by several of the girl's relatives.

Birnbaum said the girl's mother had a preexisting heart condition and had struggled with alcoholism. He said he planned to have a private forensic pathologist examine her body.

Several relatives who waited all day for the brief proceeding declined to comment. The girl's father, who lives in Pittsburgh, also declined to speak with a reporter.

"They don't want this to become any larger than it already is," Michelen said.

"Everybody is devastated. You can imagine their shock. No one anticipated this. No one saw it coming."

Los Angeles Times Articles