Capital Judicial Center

Gatto’s lawyer opens door to manslaughter conviction in closing

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 2:45pm

During the closing arguments of Shawna Gatto’s trial for the murder of 4-year-old Kendall Chick, the defense mounted a two-tier close.

The state cited the medical, physical, timing, and family dynamic in maintaining Gatto likely inflicted the fatal injuries to Chick and most of the non-fatal ones, including a severe head injury. The state argued Stephen Hood had much to answer for, and could be tried for other crimes,  but he was not present during most of the injuries and was in a submissive relationship relative to Gatto, loved her, and wanted to believe she could not have hurt Chick.

Defense attorney Phillip Cohen continued to maintain Gatto must be found not guilty because the state did not have evidence that clearly stated that she, and only she, had access to Chick and could have inflicted the injuries. He also pointed to differences in the timelines proposed by pathologists for the state and the defense, that put the time of the injury to the pancreas at one and 36 hours prior to her death.

However, attorney Jeremy Pratt submitted a second close, stating that if Justice William Stokes considered and discounted Cohen’s argument, he should consider a conviction of criminally negligent manslaughter based on State v. Crocker, who was convicted of depraved indifference murder in the death of his son, Timothy, after swinging his head into a wall. That conviction was upheld on appeal. Criminally negligent manslaughter requires only implied malice and a gross deviation from a normal duty of care. 

Stokes asked Pratt if he should consider the entire constellation of Chick’s injuries when considering a manslaughter conviction; Pratt said no, but the state said he should include all the injuries, as part of child abuse syndrome, and again, reiterated that only Gatto could have caused most of the injuries.

Stokes said court would be in recess until  1 p.m. April 30, when he would render his verdict at the Capital Judicial Center.