Video: Olympian stands by brother charged in dad’s death

  1. Closed captioning of: Olympian stands by brother charged in dad’s death

    >>> a criminal trial is now under way of nancy kerrigan 's father. mara schiavocampo is in massachusetts with the latest on the story. good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, ann. what a sad day for the kerrigan family. a father dead, his son accused of manslaughter. prosecutors say nancy's brother mark choked his father in january of 2010 causing him to have a heart attack and die, but the family said the father had pre-existing health conditions and they are standing behind the accused. famed olympic figure skater, nancy kerrigan , a heart breaking drama in court as prosecutors allege her brother mark is responsible for the death of her father dan.

    >> this defendant grabbed his father around the neck with such force and shoved him to the kitchen floor.

    >> reporter: during opening statements in front of a packed court monday the prosecution claimed mark was angry that he couldn't use the phone and choked his father, causing him to fall and have a heart attack . they say he was drunk, presenting as evidence a bottle of scotch they claim he practically finished off. then more dramatic evidence as jurors heard the frantic 911 call made by kerrigan 's mother brenda. oh, my god. i hope he's not dead. oh, my god. please come right away.

    >> what happened to him, ma'am?

    >> he fell on the floor. oh, my god.

    >> reporter: the defense paints a different picture claiming 70-year-old dan kerrigan had existing medical problems.

    >> he had high blood pressure . he had high cholesterol . he had diabetes and he smoked. that's the evidence of what killed him.

    >> reporter: the kerrigan family stands by mark. sitting behind him on day one of the trial. nancy kerrigan is on the list of potential witnesses to be called but legal analysts say it would be too risky to put her on the stand against her brother.

    >> the jury will look at her and say, oh, that's our beloved olympic champion .

    >> reporter: he cried openly faced with the charges and the death of his father, a loss felt deeply by the family, now brought together in court. we reached out to the kerrigan family for comment about the beginning of the trial, but we didn't get a response. ann?

    >> mara schiavocampo, thank you so

Image: Prosecutor Elizabeth Keeley, and Mark Kerrigan, right
Suzanne Kreiter  /  AP
Prosecutor Elizabeth Keeley, left, points to Mark Kerrigan, right, brother of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, not shown, during the first day of testimony in his manslaughter trial at Middlesex District Court, in Woburn, Mass., on Monday.
By
updated 5/17/2011 6:07:44 AM ET 2011-05-17T10:07:44

The 70-year-old father of Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan spent the final moments of his life defending himself as his drunken, angry son put his hands around his neck and pushed him to the floor, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

Kerrigan's 46-year-old brother, Mark Kerrigan, is charged with manslaughter in the January 2010 death of their father, Daniel Kerrigan.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley said in her opening statement that the elder Kerrigan died of cardiac dysrhythmia — a loss or interruption of a normal heartbeat — after being pushed and shoved by his son during an argument over use of the family telephone.

"Daniel Kerrigan spent the last few minutes of his conscious life fighting off his drunk, 45-year-old son," Keeley said.

"And the final act, which triggered the death of Daniel Kerrigan, is when this defendant grabbed his father around the neck with such force that he fractured cartilage in the left side of his larynx and shoved him to the kitchen floor," she said.

'My husband is on the floor'
Kerrigan's defense attorney, however, told jurors that Daniel Kerrigan died because he had severe blockage of arteries leading to his heart, not because of the altercation with his son.

"Mark Kerrigan loved his father," attorney Janice Bassil said in her opening statement. "They want someone to blame, but sometimes things just happen."

Nancy Kerrigan listened from the front row as Mark Kerrigan's trial opened in Woburn Superior Court.

Prosecutors had indicated they may call her to testify about her father's health in the weeks before his death, but Keeley said Monday that it was unclear whether the prosecution would do so. Bassil declined to say if the defense plans to call her.

Nancy Kerrigan comforted her mother as prosecutors played a recording of the 911 call Brenda Kerrigan made to police the night her husband died.

Image: Nancy Kerrigan attends her father's funeral in January 2010.
Elise Amendola  /  AP, file
Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan arrives at St. Patrick Church in Stoneham, Mass., on January 28, 2010.

Brenda Kerrigan is heard sobbing and pleading with a dispatcher to send help quickly.

"Um, my husband is on the floor, and I don't really know what is wrong with him," she says.

When the dispatcher asks what happened, Brenda Kerrigan says he fell on the floor.

"He, oh my God, I hope he's not dead. Oh my god, oh my God, oh my God," she says.

According to a transcript given to jurors, Mark Kerrigan can be heard swearing in the background, early in the call.

Brenda Kerrigan then yells, "Get away from him!"

The police dispatcher then asks, "Are they fighting in the background?"

"Oh, yes," says Brenda Kerrigan.

After the dispatcher asks her if her husband is still breathing, Mark Kerrigan gets on the phone. He tells the dispatcher his father fell down.

Video: Olympian stands by brother charged in dad’s death (on this page)

"He seemed to have a heart attack," he said.

Both prosecutors and Kerrigan's attorneys told the jury that Daniel Kerrigan was diagnosed with coronary artery disease in 2003.

Bassil said he didn't tell his family.

"Daniel Kerrigan was a very, very sick man. No one knew it. Maybe he knew it, but he didn't share it with anyone," Bassil said.

Medication
Keeley, however, said Daniel Kerrigan was managing his health. She said he saw a cardiologist, was on medication and had been keeping his cholesterol and blood pressure within normal range.

"Daniel Kerrigan was an active man until the moments before he died," she said. "Yes, he suffered from coronary disease, but that's not what killed him. That man killed him," she said, pointing to Mark Kerrigan.

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Daniel Kerrigan's sister, Jean Bergeron, who was subpoenaed by prosecutors to testify, made it clear she was a reluctant witness, acknowledging that she had refused to meet with prosecutors before the trial.

Bergeron said her brother had complained about his neck being stiff and sore. She also said her brother looked "gray, very pale" in the days before his death.

Stoneham police officer Jonathan Mahoney, the first officer to arrive at the Kerrigan house, said Mark Kerrigan was belligerent, yelled profanities and refused to comply with orders from police. Mahoney said Kerrigan acknowledged that he had fought with his father.

"I heard him state that he had grabbed him by the neck and that he fell to the floor and that he was faking it," Mahoney said.

Nancy Kerrigan won the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics and the silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics. She was at the center of a saga at the U.S. Championships before the 1994 games, when an assailant clubbed her right knee during practice.

Video: Tonya Harding tells her story

An investigation revealed that rival skater Tonya Harding had knowledge of the planning of the attack.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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