Boston mom faces trial in accidental death of son

By Denise Lavoie
AP Legal Affairs Writer / August 1, 2010

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BOSTON—After her 8-year-old son was shot to death, Lakeisha Gadson told police that three armed men wearing hooded sweatshirts had burst into her apartment and fired three rounds, hitting her little boy, Liquarry.

The next day, Gadson admitted she had lied about the intruders. This time, she told police that Liquarry's 7-year-old cousin had accidentally shot him.

Now Gadson is going on trial in an unusual case that accuses a mother of manslaughter in the death of her own son, even though she did not fire the gun that killed him.

Prosecutors say Gadson is responsible for Liquarry's death because she allowed her 15-year-old son to keep the loaded handgun that killed the boy in a dresser within easy reach of a child. They say that "led predictably to the resulting tragic -- and entirely preventable -- death" of her son.

Gadson insists she did not allow her older son to own the gun and says she didn't know it was in their apartment in the weeks and months before the shooting.

Her lawyer said the trial will force her to relive "the most traumatic event" in her life.

"I expect that going through this trial is going to be the second-most painful thing to ever happen to her," said attorney Peter Krupp.

Jury selection begins Monday in Suffolk Superior Court.

Some legal experts question whether prosecutors will be able to persuade jurors to find Gadson guilty of manslaughter.

The 33-year-old single mother was raising five children in a crime-ridden neighborhood in the Dorchester section of Boston. She initially told police she had bought the gun for protection.

Her 15-year-old son, Jayquan McConnico, later admitted he brought the gun into the apartment. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in October and is in a youth detention center, where he will stay until he is 21.

"They are going to have to prove the mother knew the gun was in the apartment, knew it was a working firearm, knew it was in the dresser, and knew -- at a minimum -- that it was accessible to the kids," said Edward P. Ryan Jr., a criminal defense attorney and former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

"I don't think there's enough there to prosecute the mother on the manslaughter charge."

But others said manslaughter is a viable charge in cases in which parents are accused of failing to protect their children.

"Parents are the guardians of their kids, and if they let their kid get into something that causes a death, they are routinely held accountable for that. The unique aspect of this case is that a firearm was involved," said Tim Bradl, a criminal defense lawyer and former state prosecutor.

Liquarry A. Jefferson had just finished first grade at J.P. Holland Elementary School in Dorchester. He loved basketball, pizza and pro wrestling.

Police say the boy and his 7-year-old cousin were in McConnico's bedroom at around 11 p.m. on June 24, 2007, playing with a 9mm, semiautomatic pistol they had taken from McConnico's 2 1/2-foot-tall dresser. Liquarry's 3-year-old sister was outside the closed room, begging to join the boys, but they wouldn't let her in.

Liquarry's cousin fired the gun once, hitting Liquarry in the abdomen.

Family members, including Gadson, ran in the room to find Liquarry on the floor of the bedroom. He died at a hospital.

Liquarry's death prompted an uproar among local politicians. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino returned early from a meeting of mayors in Los Angeles and called for tougher gun control laws.

The boy's family was well-known to police. His father, Liquarry C. Jefferson, was convicted of manslaughter in 1998, and at the time of his son's fatal shooting, was serving a 4-year sentence for a string of armed robberies.

Gadson has a criminal record herself, including several arrests for assault. McConnico had a lengthy juvenile record.

Her lawyer has asked the judge to allow questioning of prospective jurors about their attitudes on gun ownership, the death of a child and the ability and obligation of parents to supervise and control their teenage children's behavior.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to question prospective jurors about whether the mother-son relationship would make it difficult for them to find Gadson guilty, even if the evidence proved her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Chris Dearborn, an associate clinical professor at Suffolk University Law School, said picking the right jury will be critical in the case.

"If I'm the prosecutor, I want a lot of outraged parents," Dearborn said. "If I'm the defense, I want people who appreciate mistakes and people who have been around frightening situations and understand why you might want to have a gun in the house."

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Gadson faces a sentence ranging from probation to a maximum of 20 years.

She is also charged with reckless endangerment of a child, assault and battery on a child with substantial injury, firearms violations and a charge of misleading police.

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