Woman found guilty of child abuse in death of 3-year-old

Defense: We intend to ask for a new trial

Stacey Laniyo is escorted in handcuffs to the Department of Corrections after a jury found her guilty of child abuse over the death of a 3-year-old boy. (KIMBERLY B. ESMORES)

A six-person Superior Court jury deliberated just a few hours yesterday and returned with a unanimous guilty verdict against a woman who’s been charged with child abuse over the death of a 3-year-old boy. Her lawyer immediately said they intend to file a motion for a new trial.

Following the jury verdict that found Stacey Lani Laniyo guilty of one count of child abuse, her lawyer, Mark Scoggins, asked the court not to remand her because they plan to file a motion for a new trial.

“There was pervasive, serious, very prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct in this case and we intend to ask for a new trial. The prosecution was out of control and it was appalling, really, her behavior. This matter does involve serious questions about the fairness of the trial and there is no need to remand her to custody at this time,” Scoggins told the court.

Scoggins added that he is hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant a stay, or temporarily suspend, the verdict.

“There is no need to remand her at this time. If she gets sentenced to a short sentence or long sentence in September, she can serve that or a portion of it until the Supreme Court hopefully will stay that but there’s no need to take her into custody. The court should know that there is a very serious chance that Ms. Laniyo’s rights were prejudiced by the prosecutor,” he said.

Despite Scoggins’ arguments, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph Camacho remanded Laniyo to the Department of Correction because the jury has decided and now that she is no longer presumed innocent, he said his concern is for the children who still live in her home.

He ordered Laniyo to return to court on Sept. 8 to be sentenced. The maximum sentence for child abuse, Camacho said, is five years.

The lead prosecutor in this case, Coleen St. Clair, later accused the defense of being shameless and resorting to attacks.

“If you don’t have the facts on your side, you attack. The allegations he made started even before the trial and I find it shameless because he actually got caught lying to the jury when he was waving his document before the witness, saying, ‘You never said this,’ knowing that the jury would never see that document and, in fact, in that document, she had said all those things he claimed she didn’t say. It’s shameless,” she said.

In terms of the remand, St. Clair said she requested Laniyo be remanded because it’s standard to remand a defendant after a jury trial.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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