By Diane Madigan
Independent Court Reporter
Angelina Perry, 39, and Ray Hunt, 34, who have been charged with Homicide – Involuntary Manslaughter in the Aug. 20 drowning death of their son, are considering a plea deal offered by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
Oliver Hunt, 11 months old, drowned in a swimming pool on Bontekoe Drive in Sumpter Township while his parents slept.
The trial has been set for June 20.
Perry and Hunt failed to show up for their April 4 court session at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.
Hunt’s attorney Brian Gagniuk told Judge Dana Hathaway that Hunt said he was in the hospital. There was no word from Perry, so Judge Hathaway put out a warrant for her arrest.
At the April 12 conference, Perry’s attorney Mark Nortley said Perry didn’t attend the April 4 session because she was under the impression that she didn’t need to attend since her co-defendant Hunt was in the hospital.
Judge Hathaway withdrew the warrant.
Judge Hathaway ruled on a motion by Assistant Prosecutor Carin Goldfarb for a 404(b) ruling to allow past actions of Perry and Hunt to be presented to the jury as evidence in the trial.
Goldfarb said that both defendants placed Oliver in situations of danger by using him as a decoy to shoplift at Meijer in Van Buren Township.
Goldfarb described another situation of Perry’s gross negligence and failure to protect another one of her children. That child climbed up on a shelf, got into the sink, turned on the hot water, and suffered second-degree burns.
“Nobody was watching,” she said, adding that incident only involved Perry and not Hunt.
Goldfarb said both parents showed a pattern of being grossly negligent, a pattern of failing to protect their children, a failure to watch and protect Oliver, who was only 11 months old.
They allowed a door to be left open and a gate to the pool to be unlatched, which allowed Oliver to climb into the pool and to drown.
She said this goes far beyond home accidents or situations where parents turn their heads for a moment. Goldfarb said there were many safeguards in place to prevent this tragedy from happening, such as securing the gate, securing the door.
“They didn’t watch their child,” she said, noting that was grossly negligent.
Nortley, Perry’s attorney, said that “prior acts” imply a plan or scheme and this violation is an act of omission.
The defense attorneys argued that the shoplifting misdemeanor has nothing to do with the facts of the present case and that there wasn’t any law to support Goldfarb’s position on the shoplifting.
Goldfarb argued that there is system of failing to provide proper supervision and there is neglectful supervision. The
protection provided was grossly negligent, she said.
Judge Hathaway ruled that the shoplifting case is a misdemeanor and would not be admissible under 404(b) prior acts or 609.
The judge did allow admission of the burning incident against Perry only.
Perry’s attorney suggested he might ask for the defendants to go before separate juries, since there could be some finger pointing. The request for a second jury has to be filed by May 17.
Goldfarb said the attorneys also had mentioned they were thinking of asking for a bench trial and they nodded their heads in agreement.
The defendants’ attorneys and Goldfarb conferred with the judge at the bench, briefly discussing the proposed plea deal quietly among themselves. The details were not announced to those in the courtroom.
The cut-off date to accept or reject this plea offer was set for April 19.
No further court sessions were set before the June 20 trial date, but all motions must be filed by May 17.
By Diane Madigan