Mom Found Guilty in Daughter's Death

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After a short deliberation, a jury found Carlotta Brett-Pierce guilty of murdering her 4-year-old daughter, Marchella.

She was found guilty on second degree murder charges, which carries a sentence of 25 years to life. She was also found guilty of assault in the 2nd degree, unlawful imprisonment and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Brett-Pierce will be sentenced on June 6.

Throughout the three-and-a-half week trial, dueling portraits of Brett-Pierce, 32, emerged. The prosecution painted her as a mother who beat, drugged and starved her 4-year-old daughter to death. The defense portrayed her as a mother who out of “ignorance and stupidity” tried to raise her extremely sick daughter as if she were a healthy child.

“Hungry, thirsty, dying,” with each of her limbs tied to the bed, Assistant District Attorney, Jacqueline Kagan, said, pointing to Marchella’s Sponge Bob bed that was placed in the middle of the courtroom.

That was how Marchella spent the last hours of her life – fighting for her life, Kagan said.

“It really was a fight she never had a chance of winning,” Kagan said. “Not with a mother like this.”

Marchella was born prematurely, at 24 weeks, and weighed just over 1 pound. She spent most of her life in various hospitals and required a feeding and tracheal tube.

Prosecutors showed photos of Marchella when she left Northwoods in Niskayuna, N.Y., in February 2010, weighing 26 pounds. They were followed by autopsy photos, which showed an emaciated body, with numerous bruises and ribs protruding through skin.

Marchella weighed 18 pounds at the time of her death in September 2010, and had more than 70 injuries to her body and head,

Brooklyn's deputy chief medical examiner testified in court last week.

She died of child abuse syndrome, with acute drug poisoning, blunt impact injuries, malnutrition and dehydration, according to his report.

Prosecutors also showed photos of a videotape cassette they said Brett-Pierce broke by repeatedly hitting Marchella on the head. Brett-Pierce’s fingerprints and Marchella’s blood and hair were found on the cassette.

Alan Stutman, Brett-Pierce’s attorney, said the fact his client never took Marchella to a pediatrician after her February 2010 discharge from Nortwoods, never got medications she was told the child needed, and didn’t replace Marchella’s feeding tube after it came out were actions that did amount to crime.

Brett-Pierce thought she would be able to raise Marchella the way she raised her other two healthy boys, Stutman argued.

“I think there is ignorance and … a lot of stupidity,” Stutman said outside the courtroom. “But let’s not hold mother to that higher level. Let’s hold mother to a more reasonable level.”

He also said there were “clues” and “hints” to what Brett-Pierce was like, but no one acted on them when deciding to release Marchella to her care.

“This is about a system that failed a dysfunctional mother,” Stutman said during his summation.

Prosecutors disputed that idea, saying Brett-Pierce pretended she was willing to take care of her child’s special needs.

“She fought hard, hard to survive,” Kagan said of Marchella to the jury at the end of her closing statement. “She lost her fight to her mother. Now you fight for her.”

Loretta Brett, Marchella's maternal grandmother, is also on trial simultaneously on manslaughter charges. The jury in the case will hear summations and then began deliberations on Thursday.