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November 2, 2013

Hearing set on new trial for mom

Guilty of attempted murder in son's cancer death

SALEM — The Salem mother convicted of attempted murder for withholding her son’s chemotherapy medications will be back in a Lawrence courtroom later this month to ask for a new trial.

Kristen LaBrie and her new attorney say that the lawyer in her 2011 trial was inexperienced and made a series of errors.

Prosecutors argue that while Kevin James may not have handled the case the way LaBrie’s new counsel might have chosen, his tactical decisions are not grounds for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Any errors he did make, they argue, had no effect on the fairness of the trial.

Superior Court Judge Richard Welch III, who presided over LaBrie’s trial, has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 19. LaBrie, now 40 and serving an eight- to 10-year prison term, is expected to be brought to court to hear the arguments.

LaBrie’s son, Jeremy Fraser, suffered from severe autism and was largely nonverbal. At the age of 6, he was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, a type of cancer with an 80 to 85 percent cure rate.

LaBrie, who was divorced from Jeremy’s father, Eric Fraser, complied with the initial treatment regimen at the hospital and told doctors and nurses she would give him his at-home medications. But she never filled the prescription for an oral chemotherapy drug during one of the phases and filled only three months of a later regimen, pharmacy records showed.

Prosecutors argued that not only did LaBrie never tell doctors she was withholding Jeremy’s medications, she took steps to lead them to believe she was giving him the medication, including requesting more syringes. They argued that LaBrie no longer wanted the burden of caring alone for a sick, autistic child.

The cancer returned in a more drug-resistant form in 2008. Jeremy died the following year after his father, who was awarded custody of the boy, chose not to pursue further treatment. Eric Fraser died soon after his son, in a motorcycle accident.

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