On December 2, 2002, 32-year-old Daniel Fusco called 911 and said he had discovered his girlfriend’s 19-month old daughter, Jade, unconscious in her Warwick, Rhode Island home.
Jade was taken to a hospital where, two days later, she died. Police began an investigation after medical personnel said the girl had bruises on her chest and back that suggested someone had squeezed her so hard that one of her ribs fractured and soft tissue around her intestine was torn. The girl appeared to have suffered a blow to the head causing bleeding behind her eyes. A scrape and bruise to her nose and bruises to her lip suggested her nose had been shut while a hand covered her mouth. The girl also had a recently pierced hymen.
Fusco had agreed to babysit the girl while her mother, 32-year-old Kimberly Mawson, went out shopping. Mawson later told a grand jury that the girl had bumped her head that morning, but only slightly and the skin was not pierced. She said Jade was fine when she went to the store.
However, Fusco told the grand jury that he discovered the child unconscious almost immediately after Mawson left the home. He denied committing any injury to the child.
In May 2005, Mawson, who by then was living in Connecticut, was charged with second degree murder.
Mawson went on trial in Kent County Superior Court in the fall of 2007. Fusco, who was no longer in a relationship with Mawson, testified that he discovered the girl unconscious and called for help.
Mawson’s grand jury testimony—during which she denied harming the child—was aired for the jury.
Physicians testified to the extent of the child’s injuries and said the injuries were consistent with someone squeezing the child with great force.
The prosecution argued that Mawson, frustrated because she had been unable to leave her home for six days, had inflicted the child’s injuries.
In October 2007, a jury convicted Mawson and she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
In May 2010, while the conviction was being appealed, attorney Richard Corley contacted the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Counsel requesting a consultation on an ethical dilemma—whether he could legally disclose that Fusco had admitted being responsible for Jade’s injuries. The issue was whether such a disclosure violated the attorney-client privilege, which bars lawyers from revealing confidential conversations with clients.
Corley explained that in December 2002, after the investigation was opened into Jade’s death—and before any charges were filed—both Mawson and Daniel Fusco, as well as their respective fathers, came to his office seeking advice and representation. Sensing it would be a conflict of interest if he represented both Mawson and Fusco, Corley said he would represent Fusco and advised Mawson to retain another lawyer.
After that initial meeting, Daniel and his father, Michael Fusco, later returned to Corley’s office for another meeting on December 13, 2002. During that meeting, Daniel, appearing anxious and stressed, read from a Bible and then implicated himself in Jade’s death. There was discussion about whether Daniel would tell Warwick police about his admission, but Daniel never spoke with police. In fact, he testified before the grand jury that he had nothing to do with Jade’s injuries.
The Disciplinary Counsel informed the Rhode Island Attorney General of Corley’s inquiry and in June 2010, Warwick police interviewed Daniel and Michael Fusco. Daniel refused to speak to the detectives, but Michael told police that during the conversation in Corley’s office in 2002, Daniel had admitted being responsible for Jade’s death.
Lawyers for Mawson filed a motion for a new trial and Mawson was released on bond in June 2010. A hearing on the motion was held in September 2010. The prosecution contended that Corley could not testify about Daniel Fusco’s admission because he was bound by the attorney-client privilege.
In October 2010, Superior Court Judge Edwin Gale ruled that Corley could testify without violating the privilege and granted the motion for a new trial. The judge ruled that because Michael Fusco, Daniel’s father, had been present when Daniel admitted harming the child, Daniel had effectively waived the privilege.
On June 15, 2012, the prosecution dismissed the case against Mawson and announced that Fusco would not be charged in the case.
– Maurice Possley