SALEM — Jeremy Fraser couldn't tell anyone what his mother, Kristen LaBrie, was doing to him, prosecutor Kate MacDougall told jurors yesterday. His autism prevented that.
So it was too late by the time Jeremy's doctors discovered that LaBrie had stopped giving him his chemotherapy — at least when no one was watching.
"He was a little boy," said MacDougall in her closing argument to jurors in Lawrence Superior Court. "He was her little boy, and he had an opportunity for a miracle. He had an 85 to 90 percent chance of a cure, and she took that from him. She stole that from her little boy.
"Ladies and gentlemen, that's not a tragic mistake. That's not an accident. That — in every sense of the word — is criminal."
LaBrie, 38, of Salem, is charged with attempted murder, child endangerment and two counts of assault and battery. Her son, Jeremy, died in 2009 at the age of 9.
LaBrie's lawyer, meanwhile, urged jurors to take a different view of the Salem mother.
"Kristen didn't intentionally do this," said Kevin James. "Kristen didn't create this situation. She merely stepped up to the plate, alone, to give Jeremy life.
"She didn't intentionally do this. She was duped. That's what happens when she is told, 'You have to make this beautiful child' — that she cared for from birth — 'you have to give him medications that make him sick.'
"She couldn't do that," James contended. "She had an inability to do that because she loved that child."
James turned the blame instead on Massachusetts General Hospital, on Jeremy's oncologist Dr. Alison Friedmann, on social workers, even on the Stop and Shop pharmacy that made an error filling one of Jeremy's prescriptions (although by then his cancer had already returned).
James called LaBrie's decision "a tragic, tragic mistake" and the charge of attempted murder "absolutely bogus."
MacDougall called it "a conscious decision," one LaBrie showed no sign of regretting.
If she was suffering overwhelming depression and anxiety, as the defense expert, psychologist Frederic Krell testified, "she must still be suffering from it," argued MacDougall.
"The woman who took the stand on Friday still thinks she made a rational decision," MacDougall told jurors. "The woman who took the stand on Friday doesn't think she did anything wrong, and the woman who took the stand on Friday showed not one shred of feeling responsible for Jeremy's relapse.
"She made a cold and intentional decision, and she acted purposely and carefully to make sure no one found out until it was too late."
MacDougall pointed to LaBrie's efforts to fill prescriptions only at certain times — as she was moving in with her sister, as Jeremy was starting to show symptoms that perhaps LaBrie recognized as the cancer returning.
And if she was so worried about the side effects of the chemotherapy, why did she continue to take Jeremy to the hospital for that portion of his treatment — three- to seven-day sessions of chemotherapy? Why, as she insisted, did she give him the medication called Ara-C that came in a box, so toxic she herself was not allowed to touch it directly?
"Her story doesn't make sense, it doesn't hold water, it doesn't match the evidence — so why?" MacDougall asked jurors. "Was this the annihilation she promised Eric (Fraser) in April?" a reference to her MySpace rants against her ex-husband and Jeremy's father.
"Or is it more simple than that?" the prosecutor asked jurors.
LaBrie doesn't know the last day she saw Jeremy and acknowledged she had made no effort to lift a court order barring her from contact with him.
"It always goes back to her," MacDougall told jurors, who reminded them of how LaBrie "walked away" from her son after his cancer returned and "didn't look back." Instead, she got a new job, took a trip to Miami and got her hair done.
James, however, argued that LaBrie was left, in a sense, holding the bag.
"Kristen stands alone," James told jurors.
"The prosecution wants to put her in jail," James said, a statement that violated procedural rules and one that prompted an interruption from the judge, who told jurors to disregard the potential penalty LaBrie faces. "... They want to put her in jail because she fell short, even though there's a bunch of parties with more resources, they fell short as well.
"Her failure was not intentionally wanton and reckless," James argued. "When you come back out, justice, fairness calls for a not guilty finding."
The deliberating jury of seven women and five men were in the jury room for five hours yesterday. After about three hours of deliberating they had two questions for the judge: are people legally obligated to administer medications prescribed by a doctor, and in their consideration of the attempted murder charge, does the failure to administer medication constitute an "overt" action as called for in the law?
Judge Richard Welch told jurors that parents have a legal duty to protect their child from substantial harm, and therefore are obligated to provide medication to their child if it would prevent that harm.
He also told jurors that it is up to them to decide whether she withheld the drugs — something she has already admitted to doing — and that making a decision not to do something can be considered an overt act as required by the law.
James objected to both of Welch's answers.
If found guilty on all four counts, LaBrie faces up to 40 years in state prison.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.