PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The jury has found a West Virginia woman accused in the drowning of her 2-year-old son in a hotel bathtub guilty of first-degree murder.
When Sharon Flanagan heard she would spend the rest of her life in jail she hollered out, “Please Judge Manning, please! I’ll serve any sentence, but I can’t spend time in jail.”
The judge told her to remain silent; she kept on with her outburst and was removed before the end of the proceeding.
She also mumbled something about abuse in prison, but her lawyer would not talk about that claim, only saying he has not filed any allegation of abuse with the authorities.
Earlier, he argued that there was no evidence she held her son down in the Best Western hotel bathtub. He argued sometimes accidents happen, and that the evidence did not support a first-degree conviction.
The jury disagreed.
“I think that’s the bottom line, this is not your normal case,” said defense attorney Blaine Jones. “This is a 2-year-old who was in the care of his mother, and I think that that was a lot for the jury to have to digest. I saw it, emotionally it was draining.”
But the prosecution argued that Flanagan just had too many different stories to be believed.
Closing arguments wrapped up in the trial early Friday morning.
Flanagan was facing first-degree or third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter or not guilty.
On Thursday, Flanagan testified in her own defense, admitting she lied to police when she claimed she couldn’t lift the child out of the tub.
She testified she left the bathroom and when she returned, she found the child face down in the tub and never tried to pull him out. She says she panicked and let the water out of the tub then left the room to get help.
She also testified that her marriage began to deteriorate when she one day found the child with her husband in a closet, and her husband was naked from the waist down.
During closing arguments defense attorney Jones said, “Forcibly drowning someone is an extremely violent act. There are no marks indicating he was held down. In the court of public opinion, she was guilty. But this is a court of law, sometimes accidents happen. The evidence doesn’t say there’s anything more.”
But prosecutor Lisa Pellegrini said, “This case is about maternal instincts. What would you do if you found your child face down in a tub? A small amount of water in the airways can stop the heart of a 2-year-old. He isn’t going to resist her. She is the one he believes would never hurt him.”
The jury apparently sided with the prosecution.