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Day 2 of Kerrigan trial takes emotional turn

Photo by Bizuayehu Tesfaye

Photo by Bizuayehu Tesfaye

WOBURN, Mass. -- The mother of Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan said Thursday that her son was crying and begging his father, "You've got to get up!" after a struggle that prosecutors say led to his father's death.

In a second day of testimony, Brenda Kerrigan said her son, Mark Kerrigan, initially thought his father, Daniel Kerrigan, was faking after he collapsed after a fight in their kitchen in January 2010.

But she said her son was soon kneeling next to his father, pleading with him.

"He was crying. He was kneeling. He was telling Danny to get up. 'Get up, get up! Get up, Dad, I love you, you've got to get up!'" she said, breaking into tears.

The prosecution argues Daniel Kerrigan died after a drunken Mark Kerrigan put his hands around his father's neck, fracturing cartilage in his larynx and triggering heart failure.

But the defense says Daniel Kerrigan died of a long-standing heart condition. The family has stood by Mark Kerrigan, 46, who is on trial for manslaughter.

Brenda Kerrigan said Thursday that on the night of the confrontation, she and her husband were awakened by Mark Kerrigan, who was intoxicated and upset that his parents wouldn't allow him to use the phone in their Stoneham house.

She followed Daniel Kerrigan as he rushed downstairs, then saw her husband and son grab each other in a sort of bear hug for eight to 10 seconds before Daniel Kerrigan collapsed, Brenda Kerrigan said.

Under cross examination, Brenda Kerrigan denied her son grabbed his father around the neck, which is what Mark Kerrigan told police. She said she later told the ambulance driver, "'Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, what could I have done sooner?'"

Nancy Kerrigan, who was watching from the front row, put her arm around her mother to comfort her after she finished testifying Thursday morning. Nancy Kerrigan declined to comment later Thursday.

Testimony was scheduled to continue Friday.

Also on Thursday, a forensic pathologist testifying for the defense described Daniel Kerrigan as plagued with health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and 95 percent blockages in his left and right coronary arteries.

Dr. Elizabeth Laposata said any one of a number things could have set off Kerrigan's fatal heart attack, including rushing to get out of bed, running down the stairs or grappling with his son.

She described the fracture of the cartilage in his larynx as small -- no longer than an eighth or three-sixteenths of an inch -- and possibly incurred in numerous ways besides the fight with his son, including by emergency workers trying adjust his jaw and head to help him breathe while they tried to revive him.

Laposata said Daniel Kerrigan didn't have the tissue damage to his neck and body that would have indicated his son grabbed him around the neck and shoved him down, as Mark Kerrigan told police. She said an "infinitesimal" amount of blood was found near the fracture, showing the heart was barely functioning, if at all, by the time the injury occurred, Laposata said.

Asked by defense attorney Janice Bassil if the fracture had a significant role in Daniel Kerrigan's death, Laposata replied, "No."

In her cross examination, prosecutor Elizabeth Keeley said the small amount of blood near the fracture was simply a sign of the heart failure that happened after Mark Kerrigan grabbed his father's neck, though Laposata replied there's no way to know if the struggle is what caused the heart attack.

When Laposata listed the various things that could have sparked the heart failure, she ignored what Mark Kerrigan told police about grabbing his father's neck, Keeley said.

"You didn't take into account what the defendant said he did to his father seconds before he went to the floor," she said.

Laposata responded that she knew a physical altercation of some kind came before Daniel Kerrigan collapsed.

Just hours after trial ended for the day, Nancy Kerrigan was involved in minor car accident in Wakefield, about 20 miles north of Boston. Her spokeswoman said she had a problem with a loose tire on her car and "she's just fine." No injuries were reported.