Attorney says father was victim

Date: 2002-09-04
Source: newscoast.com

Attorney says father was victim

By TIMOTHY O'HARA
posted 09/04/02

BRADENTON -- An attorney for a man who tortured and starved his son to death said his client was a victim, not a "monster," and should be released from prison.

Joseph Ciambrone was a parent who had no one to turn to help his emotionally troubled son, his attorney, Robert Barrar, said in court Tuesday.

An Idaho counselor testified Tuesday that Lucas Ciambrone suffered from a mental illness that caused him to be violent with his parents, other children and animals.
The boy suffered from "reactive attachment disorder" and was unable to form emotional bonds, Dr. Forest Cline said. The disorder was the result of abuse Lucas suffered as a preschooler before he was adopted by the Ciambrones.

Barrar told a judge that state social workers bore more responsibility for the boy's death than the Ciambrones, who were convicted of locking Lucas in a bathroom, starving him and beating him.

"It's horrible what happened, but they (social workers) placed a severely troubled child with two lay people that could not help him," said Kevin Brooks, a friend of the Ciambrones, who attended the hearing. "They had 30 or 40 foster kids and never had any problems with any of them."
Ciambrone and his wife, Heather, began locking Lucas, 7, in a bathroom because he was violent, Joseph Ciambrone told authorities.

The Ciambrones took Lucas to the hospital in May 1995 after Heather Ciambrone discovered him unconscious near the toilet.

Lucas weighed less than 35 pounds when he died. He was covered with untreated sores and bruises and had several broken ribs. Officials ruled that he died from head injuries and also suffered from hypothermia and malnutrition.
Joseph Ciambrone was convicted of murder in 1997 and is serving a life sentence. In 1999, an appeals court denied him a new trial.

In asking for a new trial, Barrar argued Tuesday that Ciambrone had ineffective counsel during his first trial. Barrar told the judge that Ciambrone's former attorney Charles Williams, now a sitting judge, should have stressed Lucas' mental illness.

Lucas' fits and tantrums were well-documented and cited during Ciambrone's trial. Prosecutors also were able to prove that the level of injuries went beyond a parent trying to control a child. Williams even called the evidence against Ciambrone "overwhelming."
Attorneys on both sides have until the end of the month to submit written closing arguments in the case. The judge will review the arguments before deciding on whether to grant a new trial.

Heather Ciambrone received a 55-year prison sentence for Lucas' death. She accepted a plea deal to avoid the a life sentence.

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