Death penalty sought in death of child pushed off bridge

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) – Prosecutors say they plan to seek capital punishment for a young mother accused of killing her 20-month-old son by pushing him off a bridge into a river even as defense attorneys prepare for a possible mental health defense.

Johnesha Monae Perry, 20, was arraigned Monday on homicide and child endangerment charges in the May death of Zymeir Perry. She told a judge she had been taking business classes before her arrest but said little else.

Police say Perry, of Allentown, kissed her son on the forehead before pushing him off the bridge and into the Lehigh River 52 feet below. Two Allentown police officers recovered the child about 700 yards downstream, but he was taken off life support six days later. The county coroner said the child died of complications from blunt force trauma and drowning.

District Attorney Jim Martin said Monday that the death penalty is warranted if Perry is convicted of first-degree murder because of the age of the child, The Morning Call reported.

Defense attorneys, meanwhile, indicated that they will focus on Perry’s mental condition. Chief public defender Kimberly Makoul said her client is being examined by mental health specialists in preparation for a possible mental infirmity defense.

“The evaluations will shed a lot of light as to her mental state at the time that this happened,” Makoul said.

Attorney Gavin Holihan, another member of Perry’s defense team, called the prosecutor’s decision to seek the death penalty “unfortunate,” saying he didn’t think Perry was the type of person for which capital punishment was intended.

“It’s an extreme penalty. Reasonable people will agree that this is not that type of case,” Holihan said.

Makoul declined to say whether her client had talked about her son but called the case a “very emotional” one.

“It’s going to be an emotional case for the defense, quite frankly, and for the defendant,” she said.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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