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Published: 12/10/2004

Jury deciding fate of 3-year-old's mom

Jurors yesterday began deliberating the case of Angela Berry, who prosecutors believe put her 3-year-old son in an unheated enclosed porch to discipline him, causing his death last January.

Ms. Berry, 33, went on trial Monday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, accused of causing the death of her son, Hassani Berry, who died Jan. 17 from hypothermia after he was exposed to extremely cold temperatures.

She is charged with one count each of murder and involuntary manslaughter and two counts of child endangering. Conviction on the murder charge would result in a sentence of life in prison.

The jury deliberated about two hours and went home for the night. They will return today to resume deliberations.

Before being released, the jury foreman told Judge Ronald Bowman, who is presiding over the trial, that they had a question.

Judge Bowman asked the foreman to put the question in writing, and the court would address the issue when deliberations resume today.

Ms. Berry told investigators that she found her son floating face-up in the bathtub of her home at 1520 Elm St., and that she grabbed him with one arm, shook him, and placed him on the floor near the front door of the apartment.

Paramedics, responding to Ms. Berry's 911 call that her son was not breathing, said Hassani was cold to the touch when they found him on the floor. He died about an hour later in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where his core body temperature was 66 degrees when taken at the hospital.

During the trial, a deputy coroner testified that Hassani's death was caused from exposure to extremely cold temperatures, and the body didn't have the conditions that occur in a drowning.

Ms. Berry did not testify yesterday after the prosecution finished its case.

Her attorney, Myron Duhart, presented one witness on his client's behalf.

That witness testified that she talked to the defendant on the phone for more than hour on the night of Hassani's death, but didn't hear anything unusual in the background.

In closing arguments, Jeff Lingo, an assistant county prosecutor, cited the testimony of a witness who was in a car with Ms. Berry and her boyfriend in the hours after her son's death. The witness said Ms. Berry asked her boyfriend if he was happy, and how much jail time he thought she would get.

"Are those the questions of a grieving mother or a guilty mind?" Mr. Lingo asked.

In taking a daytime reading of the temperature four days after Hassani's death, investigators testified it was 26 degrees inside the porch when the outside temperatures was 16 degrees.

On the night of the boys' death, the outside temperature was about 18 degrees, and investigators said the thermostat in the home was set at 75 degrees.

Mr. Lingo said the tragedy in the case was that Ms. Berry placed her son in an environment so cold that it caused his death.

"Cold was used to punish. It doesn't leave marks," Mr. Lingo said, referring to the autopsy finding's that Hassani did not suffer frostbite.

Mr. Duhart told the jury in his closing statement that the prosecution's belief that his client disciplined her son by putting him in the porch was theoretical.

Ms. Berry told investigators that Hassani was in the bathtub and her boyfriend put water in tub before leaving the apartment about midnight. She said she checked on her son two times and then found him floating in the tub about 1:45 a.m.

"There is nothing to suggest that Ms. Berry intentionally caused the death of her child," Mr. Duhart said.

Ms. Berry also was accused of punishing her son several days earlier by placing him in cold water in the bathtub because he had soiled his pants.



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