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Jury sifts two versions of Paddock


Jury sifts two versions of Paddock

Mandy Locke, Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD - The jury is expected to finally speak in judgment of Lynn Paddock today.

For weeks, these 12 random citizens have sat in silence as Paddock's adopted children spoke of the terror their mother unleashed.

Jurors debated Paddock's fate for little more than an hour Wednesday afternoon; they'll return to their deliberations at 9:30 this morning.

Paddock, 47, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 4-year-old son, Sean. He died in February 2006 after being bound so tightly in blankets that he suffocated.

This week, Paddock took the stand and admitted she wrapped Sean. She swore, though, that she never meant to hurt him, but merely wanted to hold him still to curb any temptation for him to roam their remote farmhouse at night.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Paddock will spend the rest of her days in prison. Jurors could also find her guilty of a lesser charge, such as second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.

Lawyers made their final pitches to jurors Wednesday. They meandered through dense legal definitions and preached at jurors about their duty to find truth.

For more than three weeks, testimony has taken jurors into the farmhouse where Sean spent his final days.

Witnesses described two Lynn Paddocks. By the state's introduction, she was a controlling, deceitful mother who hoarded foster children for profit. Prosecutors say she battered her children and made them feel worthless.

"These were children who were like robots. They were afraid to do or say anything," said Paul Jackson, Johnston County assistant district attorney. "That's soul murder. She beat them into submission."

Defense attorneys showed jurors Paddock as a wounded child turned desperate mother. Paddock's attorneys said she was eager to please and fell prey to bad advice. She, too, escaped an abusive mother; descriptions of Paddock's childhood by her siblings this week strangely echoed the testimony of her own children earlier in the trial.

"Her parenting skills are those she'd learned," said Jack O'Hale, Paddock's attorney.

O'Hale made a modest request of the jury.

"I'm not here asking you to exonerate her or forgive her," he said. "I'm asking you to only convict her of the crime she committed."

To the defense, Sean's death was an accident, an unfortunate end brought on by a well-meaning decision.

Prosecutors said jurors wouldn't need to look far down the charging sheet to find the right punishment for Paddock. First-degree murder, and nothing less, is what Sean's death amounted to, Jackson said.

He projected pictures of Sean's dead body onto a screen. The photos captured Sean as a slight, rigid boy lying on a stretcher at the hospital the morning he died. Jackson lingered on an image of the boy's gaunt, blue face and told jurors it was their job to do right by a child everyone else had failed.

mandy.locke@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-8927

2008 Jun 12