exposing the dark side of adoption
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Author: John DeSantis STAFF WRITER

Joseph Ciambrone held his head in his hands and turned his back to the court Friday morning as prosecutors - for the first time - unveiled a pair of life-sized, color photographs of the scarred and battered body of his 7-year-old adopted son, Lucas.

The ex-musician and foster father, charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 1995 death of Lucas, also shook his head in apparent protest when lawyers said that a world-renowned child abuse expert will testify that Lucas was sexually tortured.

``Joe's reaction was due to the graphic nature,'' Charles Williams, Ciambrone's attorney, later said. ``He still loves his son and he could not bear to see the photographs because they were too painful for him to watch. These were the natural feelings a parent would have seeing photographs of his deceased son.''

Ciambrone faces life in prison if convicted by a jury chosen Thursday. They will hear opening statements beginning at 9 a.m. Monday. Prosecutors will allege that 23 individual acts of child abuse over a period of two years or more led to Lucas' death.

The presentation of the graphic photos, which trial judge Gilbert Smith had never before viewed, was only one of several sensitive issues tackled by lawyers as they made final preparations for the trial during Friday's brief hearing.

The case is so emotionally explosive that defense lawyers asked for a direct order from Smith that prosecution witnesses will be told to keep their feelings in check while on the stand.

Assistant State Attorney Deno Economou argued against imposition of an order, but promised that he would inform his witnesses before they appeared on the witness stand that they must guard against overt emotional displays.

Williams said that during pretrial depositions, law-enforcement officers and medical professionals have openly wept.

Ciambrone's reaction to the photo presentation was the most emotional response from the defendant witnessed to date in open court.

At the start of the hearing he appeared calm, but when prosecutors Greg Hagopian and Jeff Quisenberry began removing the poster-sized blow-ups from their protective brown wrapping he quickly turned his head. He remained turned away, head cradled between his hands, during the discussion on the matter, which lasted about 10 minutes.

Economou told Smith that the photos would demonstrate the child's low weight at the time of his death - only 32 pounds - and a height of only 41 inches.

Lucas Ciambrone had the bone growth of a 4-year-old when he died, Economou said. The photos depict injuries to the child's body that prosecutors will allege resulted from years of continuing abuse at the hands of Ciambrone and his wife, Heather.

Smith, after grimly viewing the photos from the bench, denied the defense request to bar them, without comment.

He also turned down a request by Williams that testimony about accusations of sexual abuse be barred.

Dr. Elliot Newberger, who made headlines when testifying for prosecutors in the Massachusetts murder trial of British au pair Louise Woodward, told prosecutors that marks on the dead boy's penis may have been caused by a knife or scissors, or possibly by human teeth.

Dr. Joan Wood, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Lucas, did not suggest that the child was sexually abused in her reports; Newberger's opinion, recently communicated to prosecutors, was based on photographs and knowledge of Lucas' behavior patterns, Williams said.

Joseph Ciambrone should not bear the weight of defending himself against such testimony when his co-defendant, or other children in the household, might have been to blame - even if the assessment of the injuries were true, Williams argued.

Economou said the testimony was important to his assertion that Lucas died as a result of ongoing aggravated child abuse. Finding that a child was tortured is one of the paths that could lead a jury to that conclusion.

``There was injury, bleeding and pain,'' Economou said, noting that Newberger has seen such injuries ``at least 100 times'' in his career.

``The penis was specifically targeted,'' Economou said.

Smith also denied a defense request to bar testimony by Newberger concerning alleged acts of child abuse before 1993.

1997 Dec 6