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BELFAST, Maine — Sharon Carrillo may have been susceptible to making a false confession, the director of the Maine State Forensic Service testified Tuesday morning at the Waldo Judicial Center.
“There were a couple of different factors in Ms. Carrillo’s case that place her at higher risk for a false confession,” Dr. Sarah Miller told the court on Tuesday.
One of those factors is Carrillo’s limited intellectual functioning, which makes it hard for her to navigate stressful situations, the psychologist said. The other is Sharon Carrillo’s experience living with domestic violence, which would have created a barrier to going against her husband’s wishes.
“That experience of trauma, combined with her experience of domestic violence, would have impaired her judgement and behavior,” Miller said.
Carrillo is charged with the murder of her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy, but her attorneys are making the case that no evidence — other than her initial confession to police detectives — links her to the abuse. Julio Carrillo, her estranged husband, pleaded guilty to Kennedy’s murder earlier this year and is serving a 55-year prison sentence.
Attorney Chris MacLean asked Miller if the idea that someone would falsely confess to child abuse and murder runs contrary to commonsense.
“Yes,” Miller replied. But she went on to say that research supports the idea that false confessions are “more common than the average lay person would believe.”
In cross-examination, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said that Miller had determined that Sharon Carrillo had no major mental illness and could appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct against her daughter. He asked if people with IQs in the 70s range, like Carrillo, can go to school, hold down jobs and learn to drive.
“Yes,” Miller said.
The average person’s IQ is 100.
Macomber asked if the psychologist, who spent hours interviewing Sharon Carrillo and had reviewed all of the discovery evidence, would agree that the defendant never reported that either she or Marissa Kennedy were the victims of domestic violence prior to Kennedy’s murder.
“Sharon Carrillo said her relationship with Julio Carrillo was fine,” Macomber said.
“She did,” Miller responded.
The assistant attorney general drove home some of the prosecution’s points, mentioning the photograph which shows both Marissa Kennedy and her mother kneeling naked on the tile floor with their arms up.
But Macomber said the photograph had “nothing to do with Sharon Carrillo being abused.” He went on to say that no photographs show Sharon Carrillo with bruises similar to what her daughter had during her autopsy, and that during one of the videos Julio Carrillo took of Kennedy screaming and growling, at one point Sharon Carrillo can be seen “casually walking past” and putting one of the younger children in a high chair.
“It’s the jury’s job to determine what’s true and what’s not,” Macomber said.
Earlier Tuesday morning, attorneys in the case indicated that closing arguments were likely to be heard soon.