Brian’s trial began on March 3, 1997, at the Taunton Superior Court in Bristol County, Massachusetts, and lasted five days.
The majority of the prosecution’s case was medical evidence and testimony presenting two paramedics, the emergency room doctor, a child abuse expert, and finally the Medical Examiner. The medical experts presented different theories as to cause of death, how the injuries may of been inflicted, and to document the injuries. None of the forensic evidence specifically pointed to Brian over anyone else as inflicting a single injury.
The prosecution also presented testimony from all of the police detectives, the two-daycare workers, some other witnesses, and Ms. Sneed. Brian’s entire defense consisted of only two defense witnesses, Cory Oliveira, the social worker at St. Anne’s Hospital, and Brian.
The following is a brief description of what happened at trial:
DAY 1: March 3, 1997
From 9:00am to 12:30pm, was jury selection. The courtroom was filled with 70 potential jurors during the selection process. Upon arrival, Brian’s family was informed by a court officer that the courtroom was closed all morning for jury selection and turned away. They returned at 1:00pm and were then allowed to enter the courtroom.
Both ADA Renee Dupuis for the prosecution and defense attorney Raymond Veary presented opening statements. It was the prosecution’s theory that Brian abused Christopher over a period of weeks and on January 22, 1996, in a fit of uncontrollable rage over Christopher wetting his pants and vomiting, Brian brutally beat him to death. The defense presented by Brian’s attorney was that none of the evidence presented by the prosecution points to Brian over anyone else, and he was not the only adult in the house that had access to Christopher. Moreover, the evidence points more to Ms. Sneed as the one who abused Christopher over a period of time before beating him to death.
The Commonwealth presented their first witness, State Trooper Michael King. Trooper King testified as to his observations January 22, 1996 while at the hospital, describing several bruises on Christopher. Trooper King then testified as to his first questioning of Brian, with Detective Michael Roussel, at the Westport Police Station. He further testified as to going to Brian’s home at 14 E Drive, and the layout of the house and basement.
Trooper King testified that on January 24, 1996, he was present at the autopsy done by Dr. James Weiner, in Boston. Also present were Detective Roussel, Sergeant Kevin Butler, and Investigator Tom Carroll from the DA’s office. Trooper King then testified as to photos taken at the autopsy. At that point, Brian’s attorney pointed out that many of these photos were never given to the defense. Trooper King then described every bruise and/or injury that was depicted in photographs of the autopsy.
DAY 2: March 4, 1997
First, Dr. John Arcuri, St. Anne’s Hospital Emergency Room (ER) doctor, testified that when Christopher arrived in the ER there were no signs of life. Dr. Arcuri described the extensive life saving measures performed on Christopher. He stated that in the field, paramedics attempted unsuccessfully to start an I.V. Attempts in the ER were also unsuccessful. Ultimately a bone marrow needle was placed in his tibia for medication and fluids. Dr. Arcuri further testified that Christopher came into the ER already intubated. Dr. Arcuri was shown several postmortem photographs of Christopher, depicting his bruises and injuries. He stated that some of the bruises appeared to be old. Dr. Arcuri testified that he ordered a postmortem x-ray of Christopher’s head to check for any evidence of a skull fracture radiographically. He stated that Dr. Deborah Kimball, the radiologist, concluded that no skull fracture existed. Dr. Kimball’s report was missing and never turned over to the defense.
Second to testify was Dr. Eli Newberger, pediatrician and child abuse expert with NO pathology or forensic credentials. Dr. Newberger stated that he was called by the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) to testify based on the Medical Examiner’s (ME) reports, postmortem photos, hospital records, and police reports. Dr. Newberger described extensively every bruise and injury based on the medical examiner’s findings and on numerous autopsy photos. He also testified as to age of bruises based on color, and how they may have been inflicted. Dr. Newberger described large bruises to Christopher’s head, indicating the need for massive force to inflict such injuries. Dr. Newberger also testified that Christopher sustained a “crushing brain injury.” He stated that based on the Medical Examiner’s report, Christopher died from multiple blunt force trauma to the head, resulting in a skull fracture. Further he described bruises on Christopher’s arms as finger marks. He believed Christopher had been grabbed and banged against some hard surface, causing the skull fracture. Dr. Newberger then testified that the trauma and skull fracture would require the application of force comparable to what you would get if you were to fall from a second-story window onto concrete. Thus, it was his theory that the injuries were inflicted by someone strong grabbing Christopher by the arms and thrusting his head against a hard surface such as concrete, wood, or a wall. However, there was no evidence presented at trial of any weapons found, or evidence such as blood, skin, or hair found on any surface in the house. Dr. Newberger’s opinion was that based on the injuries, Christopher was the victim of child abuse over at least the last 72 hours of his life.
Third to testify was Paramedic Brian Legendre, one of the paramedics who transported Christopher to the hospital. Mr. Legendre testified as to his observations of Brian, Ms. Sneed, Christopher, and Tarissa, upon arriving at approximately 6:30pm, on January 22, 1996, at the Westport Fire Department. He described the injuries he observed on Christopher and stated that Christopher was pulseless and apneic; his eyes open and dilated. Mr. Legendre testified that he and his partner, Doug Orr, started advanced life support and trauma procedures. They immobilized his neck and spine, and intubated. He further stated that they attempted unsuccessfully to give him an I.V., and he was given one round of epinephrine and atropine.
Fourth to testify was Paramedic Doug Orr, the other paramedic that transported Christopher to the hospital. Mr. Orr’s testimony was a restatement of Mr. Legendre’s.
Fifth to testify was Lisa Morton. Ms. Morton described her observations of Ms. Sneed with her children. She stated that Ms. Sneed was the one who took care of her children. She explained that when Christopher would wet his pants, Ms. Sneed would be the one to change him. She stated that she never saw either Brian or Ami strike Christopher or be violent towards him. Ms. Morton further stated that she did not witness any marks or bruises on Christopher’s head or face the day of January 22nd.
Ms. Morton testified as to her memory of what took place on January 22nd, after Brian left the hospital, and arrived at her home. Ms. Morton testified that when he arrived at her home, Brian was covered in blood. (?) She explained that when she asked Brian what had happened, he explained to her that he was upstairs in the bathroom when Tarissa was calling about her brother. She testified that Brian told her when he found him he was convulsing, banging his head on the floor. Ms. Morton explained that while at her house Brian spoke to her ex-husband Steve Morton on the phone, she had offered Brian Valium to calm him down, and that he then fell asleep on her couch. Ms. Morton then explained that Mr. Morton arrived at the house about 10:30pm, woke Brian up to tell him that Christopher had died and that the police wanted to talk to him. Ms. Morton further testified that he told them he had nothing to hide and went to the Westport Police Station.
Sixth to testify was Steve Morton. Mr. Morton stated that he had witnessed Brian interact with Ms. Sneed’s children on many occasions. He stated that Brian was fine with them. He explained that he never saw Brian strike or lose his temper with the kids. Mr. Morton described his observations of Christopher the day of January 22nd. He stated that in the afternoon when he saw Christopher he appeared in good health, other than an egg-shaped bruise on his left forehead that had been there for 2-3 days. Mr. Morton stated that a few days before Christopher’s death, while Ms. Sneed was giving Christopher a bath, she showed him a bruise on Christopher’s collarbone. He then went on to describe the same sequence of events as Ms. Morton, about the phone call and what happened when he arrived at Ms. Morton’s house.
At this point in the trial, it was 2:30pm, and the jury was taken to 14 E Drive, Westport, MA, to see the layout of the house that Brian rented with Mr. Morton. The jury was given a tour of the home. Questions were asked by jurors, and answered by the prosecutor and defense counsel.
DAY 3: March 5, 1997
The first witness was Rhonda Franco, Ms. Sneed’s neighbor. Ms. Franco briefly testified to her observations of Ms. Sneed and her children, stating that she believed Ms. Sneed was an attentive mother.
Second to testify was Ami Sneed. Ms. Sneed testified about her past, about her children having different fathers, and her relationships with all of them. More relevant, Ms. Sneed described how she met Brian. She explained that they began dating in August of 1995. They then became more serious in November with her spending most of her time at Brian’s home with her kids. She stated that her observations of Brian with his daughter and her kids were fine, but he would yell at them when he got angry. She stated that when Christopher wet his pants, Brian would get furious. Ms. Sneed further stated that both she and Brian disciplined the kids by putting them in “time-outs.” She stated that she never saw Brian do anything to Christopher to cause her alarm.
Ms. Sneed then testified that about a week and a half before Christopher’s death, he hurt his collarbone when he was with her at her mother’s house. She explained that he jumped off the steps and fell, hitting his head first. She further stated that the only people present at the time were she, her daughter, Tarissa, and her mother’s boyfriend. Brian was not present. She stated that he cried but appeared fine. According to Ms. Sneed, it was the next day that Christopher complained to Ms. Sneed’s mother that his throat hurt. Her mother checked Christopher and noticed a bruise on his shoulder. After Ms. Sneed’s mother pointed out the injury to Ms. Sneed, she brought him the St. Anne’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken collarbone. Ms. Sneed was asked to describe any bruises she was aware of on Christopher prior to January 22nd. She stated that he had a bruise on his middle back, a bruise on his forehead, and a bruise on his ear where his sister, Tarissa, bit him.
Ms. Sneed then described the events of January 22nd, stating that Brian changed and dressed Christopher in the morning. She stated that for the last week, Brian had been the one who wanted to change and bathe Christopher. She explained that Monday morning Christopher was acting “stumbling and wobbly.” She stated that days earlier she had called the pediatrician, Dr. Jean Leimert, who stated that Christopher was probably acting oddly because he was favoring his shoulder. She further stated that he had a follow-up appointment with the pediatrician for that day, but she did not bring him. Ms. Sneed stated that she tried to get Christopher’s father to bring him but he was unavailable. She then testified that Brian told her that he would bring Christopher to the doctor’s appointment if he had time. She explained that she then went to school, leaving Christopher with Brian for the day. Ms. Sneed claimed that later that day when she saw Christopher, he had a new bump on his forehead.
Ms. Sneed testified that at about 4:00pm that afternoon, she and Brian got into an argument over a television show about unwed mothers with children from more than one man. She stated that Brian got mad and was very quiet, ignoring her, eventually leaving the room and going down stairs. She then explained that she followed Brian to the basement. She stated that after arguing, she asked Brian if he wanted her to go home. She said that Brian didn’t answer. She then explained that she was crying and prepared to leave, and that Brian then approached her and said he was sorry. Ms. Sneed then testified that she went upstairs to the living room and Brian went upstairs to the bathroom. She stated that after a few minutes Brian came out of the bathroom and went down stairs. Ms. Sneed then testified that Tarissa called her from the basement. She stated that she went to the top of the stairs and heard banging, “like someone punching the wall about four or five times.” She stated that she went down stairs and saw Brian bending over Christopher, cleaning up throw-up. Ms. Sneed stated that she wanted to call 911 but Brian suggested bringing Christopher to the fire station.
According to Ms. Sneed’s testimony, on the way to the hospital Brian asked her what she was going to tell them happened to Christopher and that Brian told her that if he was alright they would not give him back to her. She then stated that Brian began yelling at her. Ms. Sneed testified that when they got to the hospital Brian dropped Ami off, went inside, then said that he had to leave, that he couldn’t stay there because he didn’t want to get blamed. She then stated that Brian just picked up Tarissa and walked out the door.
The prosecutor then showed Ms. Sneed several autopsy photos and asked her questions about bruises and injuries. She began crying and was hysterical. The court recessed. After 10 minutes court resumed. Ms. Sneed was asked if she caused any of the injuries or bruises to her son. Her answer was no. The prosecution had no further questions.
Cross examination of Ami Sneed:
Under cross-examination, Ms. Sneed admitted to changing her testimony at trial from what she admitted at a previous hearing. At trial she stated that she and the kids stayed at Brian’s house the night Christopher broke his collarbone. At the probable cause hearing she testified that her and her kids stayed at her home on that night.
On cross, Ms. Sneed admitted that she was given a paper from the doctor with warnings that if Christopher was throwing-up, had seizures, or appeared drowsy, to call the emergency room immediately. She then admitted that on the morning of January 22nd, Christopher was sleepy, stumbling, and wobbly. On cross Ms. Sneed admitted that Christopher’s January 22nd doctor’s appointment was for follow-up x-rays.
When asked, Ms. Sneed stated that the daycare workers, Janet Souza and Susan Camara, did not point-out to her any bruises on Christopher. Ms. Sneed confirmed that she had given Brian’s name to the daycare as the first alternate to pick-up Christopher from daycare. She then admitted telling several people that Brian was very good with her kids. It was then pointed out through questioning that in Christopher’s short life, while in Ms. Sneed’s care, Christopher had been hospitalized several times for ear infections, bronchiolitis, a laceration, and swallowing an open safety pin.
On cross, Ms. Sneed, in response to questions, stated that she did not remember ever telling anyone the following: (1) Brian did not have a bad or explosive temper; (2) that she never heard any banging noises coming from the basement; (3) that she bathed Christopher the night before his death; (4) that when she saw Christopher, Brian was holding him away from him while Christopher was throwing-up; or several other things that were documented as her having stated in police reports and transcripts.
Ms. Sneed further stated that she did not remember the police telling her that they thought she had something to do with Christopher’s death, that her story didn’t make sense, or any of the other things that the police, daycare workers, or the hospital social worker reported her as saying.
At this point Brian’s attorney attempted to enter into evidence the exchange witnessed by Cory Oliveira, the hospital social worker who witnessed Tarissa stating that she didn’t want her mother. The prosecution objected and after a lengthy side bar conference the judge sustained, based on the statement being to ambiguous based on the emotions of the moment.
On cross, Ms. Sneed admitted that her daughter Tarissa had been in the custody of Christopher’s father for the past year.
Finally, during cross, defense counsel pointed out that Ms. Sneed’s testimony at trial is different than the testimony she gave at the probable cause hearing. Ms. Sneed stated that she has only told two versions of events and that the first version she didn’t say everything, but the second version she explained everything. She claimed that she didn’t remember telling the police any other contradicting versions that were documented in police reports or transcripts. There were no further questions.
Third to testify was Dr. James Weiner, Medical Examiner. Dr. Weiner is the state pathologist that performed the autopsy on Christopher. Dr. Weiner is NOT a Board certified Forensic Pathologist. Dr. Weiner testified that he began the autopsy in his office at Cape Cod, and then moved the body to the Boston Medical Examiner’s Office. He stated that his external examination found multiple injuries to the body, specifically scrapes, bruises, and extensive bruising to the head. It was his opinion that all of the bruises and injuries were made at or about the time of death. He stated that there was a bite mark found on the child’s cheek that was interpreted as being produced by a small set of teeth, not constant with an adult.
Dr. Weiner testified that his internal examination found bleeding under the scalp, a 6′ skull fracture at the rear of the skull, and a large amount of bleeding inside the head. He admitted that he did not examine the brain and had not seen any neuropathology reports. He reported eight separate impact sights to the head. He was unsure if one blow, a series of blows, or a blow to a different part of the head caused the fracture. Dr. Weiner explained that the skull fracture would have required a massive application of force to the head and was, in his opinion, constant with the child’s head being kicked or punched. He reported no retinal hemorrhages. Dr. Weiner determined that the cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries to the head.
On cross, Dr. Weiner admits that he never saw the x-rays or radiologist report of Christopher taken in the St. Anne’s Hospital ER that reflected no skull fracture.
Fourth to testify was daycare worker, Susan Camara. Ms. Camara testified that when she saw Christopher on January 18 & 19th, he appeared to be healthy, other than some bruising on his legs, the top of his legs, the back of his legs, his ear, on his cheek, and on his forehead. She described the bruises as old and faded. She also stated that Christopher had a broken collarbone from falling down the stairs, as explained by Ami, the child’s mother. Ms. Camara testified that she reported the bruises to the program coordinator, Janet Souza.
Fifth to testify was daycare worker, Janet Souza. Ms. Souza testified as to being shown bruises by Ms. Camara and then described the same bruises described by Ms. Camara. Ms. Souza testified that she questioned Ms. Sneed about the bruises on Christopher and Ms. Sneed explained that he had gotten them when he fell and broke his collarbone. Ms. Souza then stated that Ms. Sneed made a comment in a joking manner that Christopher looked like and abused kid.
Sixth to testify was Christopher’s father, Christopher Affonso, Sr. Mr. Affonso merely stated that he never saw any bruises on Christopher and that he believed Ms. Sneed was a good mother.
Seventh to testify was Carol Frazier, Mr. Affonso’s aunt. Her testimony was similar to Mr. Affonso’s.
DAY 4: March 6, 1997
First to testify was Massachusetts State Police Sergeant, Kevin Butler. Sgt. Butler testified as to seeing Christopher at St. Anne’s Hospital, stating that he saw several bruises on Christopher. He further stated that he saw Christopher the next day in Boston at his autopsy. Sgt. Butler explained that prior to the autopsy, on January 22nd, at approximately 10:30pm; he and Westport Police Detective Mario Lewis interviewed Ms. Sneed at the Westport Police Station. Sgt. Butler testified as to Ms. Sneed’s statement at the first interview explaining that Ms. Sneed gave a narrative of the events of that day. He testified that Ms. Sneed stated that following an argument in the basement, Ms. Sneed went upstairs, and Brian followed five or ten minutes later. According to his testimony, Ms. Sneed reported that while Brian was upstairs, she heard a loud bang that sounded like the TV fell and that both she and Brian went downstairs and Brian told her Christopher had been throwing-up and banging his head. He further testified that Ms. Sneed stated that Brian tried to revive Christopher, bringing him to the sink and putting water on his face. Sgt. Butler testified that Ms. Sneed stated that she said to call an ambulance, but Brian said it would be quicker to drive to the fire station.
Sgt. Butler went on to state that he then questioned Ms. Sneed again, this time with investigator Tom Carroll, on January 24th, at the Westport Police Station, after the autopsy. He stated that he learned from the autopsy that Christopher suffered a skull fracture and died of blunt force trauma, and that it was believed that all the injuries occurred at or about the time of death. Sgt. Butler testified that this time Ms. Sneed stated that she and Brian were in the basement, that they then both went upstairs, Brian to the bathroom, Ms. Sneed to the living room, and that Ms. Sneed then heard Tarissa call her saying that Christopher was throwing-up. He testified that Ms. Sneed stated that Brian went downstairs and she followed shortly after and that she explained that while Brian was around the corner she heard two loud bangs. Sgt. Butler testified that Ms. Sneed stated that she went around the corner and saw Christopher unconscious, and that Brian told her that he found him throwing-up.
Sgt. Butler testified that he then showed Ms. Sneed autopsy pictures, she became upset, and the whole situation changed dramatically. He described her as hysterical. Sgt. Butler stated that she gave another account. She stated that while Brian was in the bathroom, Tarissa yelled that Christopher was throwing-up, and that Brian went downstairs for about three minutes, and then she followed. He testified that she stated that when she was at the top of the stairs she heard five loud bangs, like someone was punching the wall. She stated that by the time she got around the corner Brian told her Christopher was banging his head on the floor.
Sgt. Butler then testified that he continued showing Ms. Sneed autopsy photos but she refused to look at them. He stated that he forced her to look at them causing her to shake and cry. He stated this was very different from the first interview where she was composed and matter of fact about the whole incident. The prosecutor showed Sgt. Butler the photos shown to Ms. Sneed; however, Brian’s attorney objects because the photos are numbered incorrectly and some of the photos were not turned over in discovery. The prosecutor agrees to only use photos the defense has.
Sgt. Butler testified that he questioned Ms. Sneed as to what bruises she saw on Christopher prior to January 22nd. Ms. Sneed described a bruise on his forehead, on his thigh, and his lower back.
Sgt. Butler then testified as to his search of Brian’s house and interactions with him while there. The prosecution had no further questions.
Cross examination of Sgt. Butler
On cross-examination Sgt. Butler stated that at the first interview he asked Ms. Sneed when the last time was that she saw Christopher without his clothes. Her response was that she bathed him on the 21st, at 6:00pm, and did not observe any bruises on him other than the ones she previously described. Also Sgt. Butler admitted that in the first interview that Ms. Sneed stated that Christopher said “mommy” when she arrived in the basement.
On cross, Sgt. Butler was questioned about Ms. Sneed’s second interview. He admitted that he asked her to describe the banging noise, and Ms. Sneed stated that it could have been Tarissa jumping off the couch. Sgt. Butler then admitted that he showed Ms. Sneed an autopsy photo and relayed to her that her story was not making sense. He told her that he thought she was lying. Ms. Sneed then changed her story again. It was then that Ms. Sneed started putting numbers on the banging noises; changing it from the TV falling, to Tarissa jumping off the couch, from two loud bangs, to five loud bangs; like someone punching a wall. Sgt. Butler stated that he knew Ms. Sneed’s stories were not making sense so he kept showing her autopsy photos stating that the new stories weren’t adding up either, so she kept changing her story. According to Sgt. Butler, Ms. Sneed changed her story from Brian being upstairs in the bathroom when she heard the bangs, to her being down stairs with Brian when she heard the bangs, to her being upstairs and Brian was down stairs alone with Christopher for five minutes when she heard the bangs. Sgt. Butler testified that when Ms. Sneed could not explain some of the older injuries, she stated that Brian was the one who bathed Christopher the night before, and that she lied because she didn’t want anyone to think she was a bad mother.
The second witness to testify was Westport Detective Michael Roussel. Det. Roussel testified as to his and Trooper King’s interview with Brian at the Westport Police Station, on January 22nd. He stated that Brian told them that Ami changed Christopher on the morning of the 22nd. Det. Roussel testified that according to his memory, Brian gave a narrative of the events of January 22nd placing him alone with Christopher in the basement of his house. He further stated that Brian told police that he shook Christopher in an attempt to revive him. Det. Roussel further testified to Brian’s statements, similar to Trooper King’s testimony.
On cross examination, Det. Roussel admits that he did not take notes of Brian’s interview over a year ago, nor does he have a report of his own, and he was relying on his memory of the interview. After questioning by Brian’s attorney, Det. Roussel reads from Trooper King’s report and admits that according to the report, Brian stated that Ms. Sneed and Brian arrived to find Christopher at the same time.
The Commonwealth rested their case.
The first defense witness was Cory Oliveira, DSS social worker at St. Anne’s Hospital. Ms. Oliveira testified that she was present during an interview by Westport Police Detectives Lewis and Roussel of Ms. Sneed at St. Anne’s Hospital on January 22nd, at approximately 10:30pm. She then stated that she observed the interview and took notes. Ms. Oliveira testified from her notes that Ms. Sneed told the detectives that Christopher had fallen on January 12th, and she brought him to St. Anne’s Hospital ER on January 13th. Ms. Oliveira continued by reporting that Ms. Sneed stated that he was diagnosed with a cracked collarbone and that since then he had been acting drunk. She further stated that Ms. Sneed told the detectives that she called the pediatrician on January 20th and was told to bring him in on the 22nd if the condition continued.
Ms. Oliveira then testified that Ms. Sneed told the detectives what happened earlier that night that the children were in the basement, Ms. Sneed went upstairs to smoke a cigarette, and Brian went upstairs to take a shower. Ms. Sneed then stated that Tarissa ran upstairs and told her that Christopher was banging his head on the floor and throwing up. Ms. Sneed then explained that she went down stairs and Brian was holding Christopher so that he would vomit out. According to Ms. Oliveira, after questioned, Ms. Sneed stated that she never witnessed Brian with an explosive temper and that in six months they only had one fight. Ms. Oliveira testified that the detectives asked Ms. Sneed when the last time was she bathed Christopher. Ms. Sneed’s answer was that she bathed and washed his hair the night before, January 21st.
It was at this point Brian’s attorney attempted once again to have entered into evidence the exchange witnessed by Ms. Oliveira of Tarissa rejecting her mother and leaving with Brian. The prosecutor objected and the judge sustained. Brian’s attorney had no further questions.
The second and last defense witness was Brian Peixoto. He testified that from approximately November 1995 to January 1996, Ms. Sneed and her kids were spending most of their time at his house. On the weekends Brian’s daughter, Amber would stay with him at his home and the children would play together.
Brian then described a day in August, when he had first started dating Ms. Sneed and he arrived at her house. He described entering her home and seeing a door held closed with an extension cord wrapped around the doorknob. Brian further explained that it sounded like an animal was in the room. When he asked Ms. Sneed what was in the room, she told him it was her son and she was trying to get him to sleep. Brian stated that he could hear him screaming and crying so he took the cord off the door and let him out. He then described the room as a complete shambles with crayon writing on the walls, curtains pulled down, and wallpaper ripped off the walls.
After being asked, Brian explained that he did not get mad at Christopher for messing himself, as much as he would get upset that Ms. Sneed was not being responsible with toilet training her son. Brian further testified that Ms. Sneed did not discipline her kids at all. He stated that he tried to show her how to be responsible, and he encouraged her to get her driver’s license, to get off welfare, and how to discipline her kids using the “time out” methods Brian used with his daughter, and taught to him by his mother who ran a daycare.
Brian testified that in January of 1996 his relationship with Ms. Sneed was getting rocky because of her lack of responsibility with discipline. He was then asked if Christopher was toilet trained at that time and also who changed and bathed Christopher. Brian responded that he was not toilet trained and that Ms. Sneed was the only one who changed his diapers and gave him baths. He testified that Ms. Sneed bathed and clothed Christopher on the morning of January 22nd, while he dressed Amber and Tarissa. Brian further testified that on the morning of January 22nd, he suggested, as was stated on the paper from the doctor that Ms. Sneed call the pediatrician because of how strangely Christopher had been acting. He explained that Ms. Sneed told him that she didn’t have time and that she could not bring him like that to daycare. Brian testified that he was unaware of the doctor’s appointment already scheduled for that day which she had made or of the conversation between Ms. Sneed and the daycare workers who pointed out to Ms. Sneed bruises on Christopher.
Brian testified as to the events of the evening of January 22nd. He stated that he and Ms. Sneed were upstairs where they had a disagreement over a TV show on unwed mothers. Brian made a statement that she could be on that show and she got very upset. He apologized and told her that he shouldn’t have said that and he wanted to leave the subject alone. Brian explained that he then went to the basement bedroom to avoid any further conflict. He stated that Ms. Sneed then followed him to the basement, insisting on a conflict. Ms. Sneed was agitated because Brian left her upstairs alone and he would not talk to her about his comment. Ms. Sneed then told Brian that she was leaving and started crying. He apologized and asked her to stay. She agreed. He then testified that Ms. Sneed went upstairs to the living room to smoke a cigarette and he shut off the TV and went upstairs to the bathroom. Brian explained that he was in the bathroom for about ten minutes, came out and heard Tarissa calling to her mother that Christopher was throwing up. Ms. Sneed then came from the living room, met Brian in the hall, and they both went downstairs together. When they found Christopher he was in what appeared to be a seizure, convulsing and throwing up. Brian cleared the throw up from his mouth and performed CPR on him, Ms. Sneed handed him a towel with cold water on it. They then drove Christopher to the Westport Fire Station.
Brian testified that when they arrived at the hospital they went into a family room. He explained that Ms. Sneed called her sister from a phone in the social worker’s office and asked Brian if he could bring Tarissa to her sister’s house, about ten minutes from the hospital. Brian stated that he left with Tarissa, brought her to Ms. Sneed’s sister’s house, and then returned to the hospital. Once he arrived back at the hospital, the hospital security guard, Mario DeCunha, told Brian that he should leave before Christopher’s father arrived. Brian then told him that he would go to Steve Morton’s wife’s house to wait for news.
Brian then testified to a similar version of events as Ms. Morton testified to earlier. At that point Brian’s attorney had no further questions.
On cross examination, the prosecutor attempted to point out that Brian’s testimony was different than what he told the police during his interview on January 22nd. Brian explained that during his initial interview he left out the part about going to the bathroom in his narrative because he didn’t think it was relevant to Christopher’s seizures, but he stated that he and Ms. Sneed arrived at the same time to find Christopher.
It was at this point that the prosecutor attempted to impeach Brian’s testimony with the fact that when being questioned by police, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right. Brian’s attorney objected and there was a side bar conference. The judge then gave the jury a curative instruction.
The prosecutor continued to question Brian and had him again go through his earlier testimony. There were no further questions.
The defense then rested.
DAY 5: March 7, 1997
The prosecutor and Brian’s attorney gave closing arguments. The judge then instructed the jury on 1st and 2nd degree murder and battery manslaughter. At 1:07pm the jurors left for lunch break and to begin deliberations. At 2:40pm the jury returned with a verdict. The jury returned a verdict of guilty of 1st degree murder by extreme atrocity and cruelty. The jury was then dismissed. Sentencing was immediate. Brian was sentenced to natural life without the possibility of parole.
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