BELFAST — After five hours of deliberation, the jury in the case against Sharon Carrillo announced that they had reached the verdict of guilty.
The trial against Sharon Carrillo began Dec. 6, with a number of witnesses and experts called by both Sharon's attorneys, Chris MacLean and Laura Shaw, and prosecutors, Assistant Attorneys General Donald Macomber and Leane Zainea.
Sharon has now been convicted of the prolonged beating death of her then 10-year-old daughter Marissa, who endured months of daily beatings at the hands of her mother and stepfather, although Sharon Carrillo has long claimed she was instructed by Julio to take responsibility and that she was actually a victim of Julio Carrillo rather than an equal participant in the abuse.
Julio Carrillo pleaded guilty to depraved indifference murder in July and was sentenced to 55 years in prison. This "deal" was also offered to Sharon Carrillo prior to the trial but ultimately turned down in favor of a trial.
Attorney Chris MacLean said that before the trial began he had the choice to include a lesser charge that the jury could choose if they were unable to convict Sharon of murder, but that the defense ultimately decided against it.
MacLean said there was a concern that if the charge of manslaughter were an option for the jury, they may choose that option rather than finding her not guilty if they were unable to convict on the depraved indifference murder charge.
Following the reading of the verdict, MacLean asked that the jury be polled, with each of the 12 individuals saying “guilty” when it was their turn to speak.
After each of the jurors had a chance to speak, Justice Murray took a moment to address them.
"Mr. Foreman, men and women of the jury, I want to thank you for your efforts throughout these proceedings, I do want to speak with you again momentarily, once I have dismissed you formally. So if I can impose on you perhaps a few moments to allow me to address you again with my further thanks and appreciation, at this time, however, your duties are now completed, and you are dismissed with the court’s appreciation,” Justice Robert Murray told jurors.
Sharon wept openly in court after the verdict was read, and her family who have attended much of the trial, including her father, Joseph Kennedy, his wife and Sharon’s longtime stepmother Roseann Kennedy, and Sharon’s aunt Deborah Ferris, also wept as the jury was polled. Twice they called out to Sharon that they loved her, though Sharon only responded as she was led out of the courtroom for the final time, turning to tell her family she loved them, too.
After the jury was excused defense attorneys and prosecutors remained to work out a date for sentencing with the judge. The sentencing date for Sharon has been scheduled for Feb. 7, at 8:30 a.m. Sharon faces 25 years to life in prison, with prosecutors telling reporters they will seek a life sentence.
A throng of reporters waited outside the courthouse for a chance to ask defense attorneys and prosecutors questions about the trial and verdict, though the first to exit the court was Sharon's family. Her father, Joseph Kennedy was initially hesitant to speak with reporters but ultimately decided to say a few words. Sharon's longtime stepmother, Roseann Kennedy, stood beside him along with Sharon's aunt Deborah Ferris.
“I just want to say I don’t think justice was done today," Joseph said. "The prosecutor seemed to not like the idea that Sharon was a victim of domestic abuse. All the signs pointed to it, but prosecutor Zainea was pretty much adamant that domestic abuse did not fit into this, and unfortunately, I think domestic abuse, not only spousal abuse but child abuse, is way too prevalent in today’s society and for it to be overlooked in this case is, as far as I’m concerned, a travesty.
"Sharon is basically being convicted because she’s of low intelligence, and I don’t think that’s a crime. There was probably nobody on the face of this earth that had a dislike of Sharon after this happened more than me, not the prosecutors, not the state police, nobody. I felt a pain in my heart that nobody should ever have to endure," Joseph said.
Joseph has previously stated that Marissa was his "whole heart."
Joseph also took aim at the government that failed to protect Marissa.
"Maine government failed to do its job, starting with its police down through [the Department of Health and Human Services], and I have a dead granddaughter because of it," he said.
"I do not think justice was done today. These people from DHHS, they have a mandate by law, I believe in the State of Maine, at least they do in New York, that if they see suspected child abuse that they have to report it and investigate, and I mean too many times things were reported to DHHS and the police that they never arrived to investigate or never made any attempt to investigate the reports. There [are] many people to blame in this, not just Sharon,” Joseph said, before thanking reporters.
Roseann Kennedy, who said she has been involved in Sharon’s life since Sharon was under age four, had a few brief words about the verdict as well.
“I think it’s important to understand that with domestic violence or any violence, because Sharon did not exhibit physical injuries that were visible does not mean that she was not emotionally, psychologically beaten down, to the point of loss of identity,” she said.
Sharon’s defense attorney Chris MacLean also spoke with reporters as he left Waldo County Judicial Center Wednesday afternoon.
MacLean said: "I think it would be hard to be anything other than disappointed with the verdict, I feel bad for Sharon Carrillo and certainly we were hoping for a different outcome here today, but I can also say that I [fully respect] the jury’s verdict in the case, I respect the jury process; we picked a fair and impartial jury and I think it must have been very difficult for them to grapple with some of these issues.”
"I think there were novel issues presented, domestic violence, child abuse, and the effect that domestic violence can have on a victim. There was expert testimony about that issue that is rarely if ever heard in courtrooms in the State of Maine. But I can also say that this is the first stage in the process because we’re not done fighting for Sharon Carrillo," MacLean said, before going on to discuss his continuing fight for justice for Sharon.
"We intend to fight at her sentencing hearing for the lowest possible sentence that can be given to her after everything that she’s been through, and as soon as that’s over we intend to take an appeal to the Supreme Court, and we’ll take further steps from there if we don’t get justice for Sharon Carrillo at that stage.”
MacLean said his team had, "identified some appeal issues already and we’re going to be exploring those and we’ll be filing a notice of appeal immediately after her sentencing.”
MacLean has previously been critical of DHHS and their response to the Carrillo case, and he was asked to elaborate by reporters interviewing him after Sharon’s trial adjourned.
“Certainly, while not necessarily part of the trial itself we came to see evidence and the jury heard evidence and those present in the courtroom heard about the systematic failures of our social service agencies to protect Marissa Kennedy.
"There were reports made that should have caused [DHHS] to know that Marissa Kennedy was in grave danger and that the State officials entrusted with the protection of our most vulnerable citizens, our children, let Marissa Kennedy fall through the cracks is a real tragedy here today. So while it’s true that I feel bad for Sharon Carrillo and disappointed with the outcome, I also feel bad for Marissa Kennedy and for other children that may be falling through the cracks out there because of problems with our social welfare system," MacLean said.
"My hope is that the attention brought on that problem by cases like this will lead to some real changes and we won’t be dealing with another tragedy like we’ve seen with Marissa" MacLean said as he wrapped up his interview.
Last to leave the building were Assistant Attorneys General Donald Macomber and Leane Zainea, who were flanked on each side by Maine State Police Sergeant Scott Quintero and Detective Jason Andrew, who were the officers who conducted the initial interviews with Sharon and Julio following Marissa’s death.
AAG Macomber came to the microphone holding a picture of Marissa Kennedy smiling at the camera, which he held throughout his comments.
“This is Marissa Kennedy,” he told reporters. “This little girl was brutally tortured for months. From Feb. 25, 2018, when her body was discovered by the first responders, to the State Police investigation, by these Detectives Jason Andrews and Scott Quintero, by the MSP Crime Lab, the Medical Examiner’s Office, and [the office of the district attorney] have been dedicated to one thing and that is bringing justice to Marissa Kennedy," Macomber said.
"Justice for Marissa started in August of this year when Julio Carrillo pled guilty and was sentenced to 55 years. The State asked for a life sentence in that case, the judge gave Julio Carrillo credit for accepting responsibility and gave him a 55-year sentence, given the fact that Mr. Carrillo is in his early 50s, Julio Carrillo is going to die in prison for what he did to Marissa Kennedy.
"This case, the jury has brought us to full justice for Marissa by finding Sharon Carrillo guilty of her own daughter’s murder and it’s our full intention to seek a life sentence for Sharon Carrillo, and she sure did not accept responsibility in this case. She cast herself as the victim, the jury by its verdict, rejected that finding," Macomber said before adding that it is the State's intention to seek a life sentence. "It’s our sincere hope that the Court imposes a life sentence on Sharon Carrillo.”
Leane Zainea fielded questions from reporters after AAG Macomber made his statement.
“What about her extremely low IQ in this case, was that taken into consideration at all, apparently not for sentencing, but can you talk about that a little?” Zainea was asked by a reporter.
“Obviously the jury had that information available to them and their deliberations. It was clear from the audio recorded interviews with the defendant, Sharon Carrillo, the video walkthrough, as well as the [video taped] interview that took place the very next day up in Bangor, that this defendant had the intellectual capacity to lie to the officers during that initial interview, maintain that lie for two hours, and then provide information to the officers in subsequent interviews whether they were audio-recorded or video records, about her involvement in the torture of her own daughter," Zainea said.
"[Sharon] provided details that only one who was involved would know, so although she may have been low functioning, she had sufficient capacity to know right from wrong."
When asked whether she thought Sharon Carrillo was also a victim of domestic violence, Zainea said that wasn't what the trial was about.
“This case was about the torture, the beatings that Marissa Kennedy withstood for months. What our position is on whether or not Sharon Carrillo was a victim of domestic violence or not doesn’t matter, because this was the case of the State of Maine v. Sharon Carrillo, for what she did to her daughter, and it was about holding her accountable for her actions that led to her daughter’s death," Zainea said.
Zainea briefly turned her attention to the two law enforcement officers flanking her and AAG Macomber, talking about their work in the case.
“The two officers standing behind us did a tremendous job in fully investigating this case. They took their time speaking with the defendant, they listened to her, they understood what she was saying to them, and it was important for the jury to hear that information,” Zainea said.
“It’s important to remember that the defense tried to throw out her confession, the Court rejected that argument [and] found that these detectives fully complied with Sharon Carrillo’s constitutional rights, so her statements may have convicted her, but it was done in a completely lawful, legally appropriate manner,” AAG Macomber added.
Both detectives declined to offer any comment.
“Obviously something like this takes a toll on everyone,” Zainea said.
"This case has been investigated in a professional manner from the very beginning. The evidence has been presented to the jury in a professional manner, but all of us standing before you are human beings, and we understood the importance of the job we all had to do, but that’s not to say that we haven’t felt the pain that Marissa experienced over the months that she was abused," she added.
AAG Macomber added: "The thing that motivated all of us, not just the four people standing here, but the professional criminal justice community, the crime lab, the medical examiner’s office, first responders, what was done to this little girl was horrific and it was our job and our aim to make sure that what happened to [Marissa] should not happen again and that the people that did this to her were held accountable.”
It was brought to Macomber’s attention that Sharon’s family had said that the system failed Marissa Kennedy, with Leane Zainea fielding the question.
“The system wasn’t on trial here during this case, this was the case involving this defendant’s conduct and only this defendant’s conduct. There were two people responsible for beating Marissa Kennedy to death, that’s Julio Carrillo and Sharon Carrillo and they have now been held accountable for their actions,” Zainea said.
When informed that Sharon’s attorney Chris MacLean said he plans to appeal the verdict as soon as sentencing is rendered and whether he had any thoughts about the move Macomber has a simple message: “Bring it on.”
BELFAST — After over five hours of deliberation, the jury in the case against Sharon Carrillo announced that they had reached the verdict of guilty.
Sharon Carrillo’s attorney Chris MacLean asked that the jury be polled, with each of the 12 individuals saying “guilty” when it was their turn to speak.
Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Friday Feb. 7 at 8:30 a.m.
This story will be updated.
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org