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State v. Verry

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

November 20, 2014

Brian Verry

Washington County Superior Court. (W2/08-179A). Associate Justice Edwin J. Gale.

For State: Christopher R. Bush, Department of Attorney General.

For Defendant: Lara E. Montecalvo, Office of the Public Defender.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.


Page 632

Goldberg, Justice.

The defendant, Brian Verry (defendant), is before the Supreme Court on appeal from a judgment of conviction entered after a jury trial in the Superior Court. He was convicted of one count of felony assault, for which he received a twenty-year suspended sentence with twenty years of probation; one count of simple assault, for which he received a one-year sentence to be served concurrently with the other sentence imposed; and one count of first-degree child abuse, for which he received a sentence of twenty years, with fifteen years to serve and five years suspended with five years of probation. In support of his appeal, the defendant argues that the trial justice (1) abused his discretion in refusing to grant a continuance, and (2) erred and violated the defendant's right to present a defense when the trial justice prohibited the defendant's father from testifying in the defendant's case-in-chief. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

Facts and Travel

This case arose from the assault and abuse of Beth,[1] an infant less than two months of age. Beth was born on January 11, 2006, a premature birth; her parents are defendant and Megan Verry (Megan). On March 8, 2006, after discovering a " monstrous growth coming out of [Beth's] head[,]" defendant and Megan brought Beth to the Emergency Room (ER) at South County Hospital. At the ER, Beth was seen by a triage nurse and

Page 633

a physician, Dr. William Sabina (Dr. Sabina). Doctor Sabina examined Beth and interviewed defendant and Megan. After ordering a CT scan of Beth's head and examining her a second time, Dr. Sabina diagnosed Beth with a subdural hematoma with cephalohematoma; she was transferred, by ambulance, to the Emergency Department at Hasbro Children's Hospital (Hasbro). The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) was notified that the infant may have been abused.[2]

At Hasbro, doctors performed a series of tests, which revealed that Beth suffered horrifying injuries, including a large skull fracture with both fresh and old bleeding in the brain. X-rays and an MRI also revealed small fractures near the ends of the infant's bones, where the bones grow; both collarbones had been fractured and were healing; the child's ribs were fractured in eighteen places; and her pelvis was cracked. In total, in her brief fifty-five days of life, the infant had sustained between thirty-six and forty bone fractures, including a skull fracture. Because of the number of fractures, Dr. Carol Jenny (Dr. Jenny), the director of the Child Protection Team at Hasbro, consulted a geneticist, Dr. Diane Abuelo (Dr. Abuelo), to recommend testing to determine whether Beth had an underlying bone disease, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI or brittle bone disease). Hasbro subsequently sent a skin biopsy and blood sample to a laboratory in Seattle, Washington, for genetic testing.[3]

Doctor Jenny and Dr. Kathleen McCarten (Dr. McCarten), a pediatric radiologist who also examined the child and performed tests, testified that they did not attribute the child's injuries to an underlying bone disease. According to Dr. Jenny, because of the fact that Beth had not fractured any more bones since the March 8, 2006 incident, coupled with the fact that her bones had healed and developed " beautifully" since the initial trauma, it was Dr. Jenny's opinion that Beth did not have OI. Doctor Jenny concluded that Beth's injuries were caused by " excessive" squeezing, " abusive rough handling[,]" and " abusive head trauma." [4]

Because child abuse was suspected in this case, DCYF placed a forty-eight-hour hold on Beth, and she was removed from her parents' custody. The Narragansett Police Department began an investigation; Det. Timothy Lackie (Det. Lackie) went to defendant's home in order to interview the parents. The defendant was not home when Det. Lackie arrived, and Megan was interviewed first. The next day, on March 10, 2006, Det. Lackie interviewed defendant at the police station, with his attorney present. The defendant told the police that Beth's head may have hit the ...

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