Commonwealth v. Erin Colleran
Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe announced today that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has reduced the conviction of Erin Colleran, 38, formerly of Sandwich, from first-degree murder to second-degree murder, in the smothering and strangulation of her 2 Â½ year old daughter, Skyler.
On December 18, 2001, at approximately 6:00 a.m., authorities arrived at the home of Erin Colleran and discovered her deceased daughter. In a statement to investigators Colleran admitted smothering her sleeping daughter by holding the child's face into a couch cushion. Colleran admitted to continuing to smother her daughter despite the child's struggling. When Colleran turned her daughter over and observed the child's condition, Colleran thought of how her daughter might suffer from brain damage for the rest of her life, and then strangled the child to death.
The Supreme Judicial Court did not question the strength of the evidence against Colleran, nor the Commonwealth's presentation of the case at the trial. Rather , the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that pursuant to its extraordinary powers pursuant to G.L. c. 278, Â§33E, a verdict of second degree murder was more "consonant with justice" in this case, because of the issue of Colleran's mental illness at the time of the murder.
A Barnstable County Superior Court jury convicted Colleran of first-degree murder under two theories: deliberate premeditation with malice aforethought; and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The effect of the Supreme Judicial Court's decision is to reduce the defendant's conviction from first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, to second-degree murder, which allows for the possibility of parole after 15 years.
The case was tried by First Assistant District Attorney Brian S. Glenny. The appeal was handled by Assistant District Attorney Julia Holler.
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