By DENISE LAVOIE
Associated Press Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ Prosecutors wrapped up their case Wednesday against a man accused of beating his stepdaughter into a coma, triggering a right-to-die case that was resolved when the girl began to recover.
Jason Strickland, a 34-year-old auto mechanic, is charged with abusing his stepdaughter, Haleigh Poutre, in 2005, when she was 11. Prosecutors say Strickland and his late wife, Holli, participated in abuse that culminated in a beating on Sept. 10, 2005, that left her with a severe brain injury.
Strickland is expected to take the stand in his own defense after his lawyers begin presenting their case Thursday.
His lawyer has told the jury Strickland believed his wife’s claims that Haleigh suffered from a psychological disorder that caused her to injure herself.
Dr. Christine Barron, a forensic pediatrician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I., testified Wednesday that she believes the injuries shown in photographs taken after the girl was brought to the hospital the day after the severe beating could not have been self-inflicted.
Barron reviewed photographs showing extensive bruising, lacerations and abrasions on Haleigh’s legs, chest, back and arms.
Barron said bruising on her left ankle and left wrist were consistent with a “restraint injury.” She also said lesions on the top of her left foot and upper left arm were consistent with a “non-accidental cigarette burn.”
Under cross-examination from Strickland’s attorney, Alan Black, Barron acknowledged that a nurse practitioner who saw Haleigh on a regular basis in 2005 characterized the abrasions and bruises on Haleigh’s body as self-inflicted injuries.
Days after child welfare officials received court permission to remove her feeding tube, Haleigh began showing signs of improvement. The state was criticized for failing to protect Haleigh and for moving too quickly to remove her life support, and the case sparked an overhaul of the child welfare system.
Holli Strickland, who was Haleigh’s aunt but who adopted the girl at age 7, died in an apparent murder-suicide with her grandmother after she was charged in Haleigh’s beating.
Haleigh, now 14, has improved to the point where she can feed herself and write her name. She now lives in a rehabilitation hospital.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
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