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How can prosecutors find justice for the death of Vt. baby? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How can prosecutors find justice for the death of Vt. baby?

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - Prosecutors say they want justice for the death of a 15-month-old Winooski boy. They charged Peighton Geraw's mother earlier this week, but legal experts say much of the case relies on information from a man with a lengthy criminal record whose credibility could be called into question.

When investigators began their search for the person who killed 15-month-old Peighton Geraw, they started with the two people who were last with him when he was alive: the boy's mother, Nytosha Laforce, and her boyfriend, Tyler Chicoine. Both told different stories; both have criminal records. He for a string of incidents including a mugging with a baseball bat and her record includes smuggling drugs into a correctional center.

"Here, they are bound to have some kind of corroborating evidence," said Jerry O'Neill, a former federal prosecutor.

O'Neill says prosecutors need more than just he said-she said stories to charge a case. He believes Laforce's and Chicoine's pasts would automatically undermine their credibility with jurors, so it's the other information gathered by detectives like statements, physical evidence and text messages that build a case.

Investigators ultimately believed Chicoine when he said he saw Laforce smash the toddler's head against the floor. She denied second-degree murder charges Wednesday.

"His credibility will be severely undermined by his past criminal conduct, however prosecutors deal with that all the time because the only witnesses to people who are committing crimes are very often others who have committed crimes," said O'Neill.

Court papers show Chicoine passed a polygraph when asked about what happened and Laforce did not. Polygraph results are not admissible in court, but O'Neill says they can still help investigators.

"A polygraph is really an enhanced interrogation technique," said O'Neill. "The polygraph examiner can ask the question, 'can you help me understand this,' and the person will then bring forth some facts they otherwise were trying to keep back... because they feel they have to explain the deception going on," said O'Neill.

O'Neill also says Chicoine gave investigators a key piece of information in not only explaining what he saw Laforce do to Peighton, but demonstrating it with a doll. Court papers show the medical examiner watched the video and said the demonstration showed an assault consistent with the toddler's injuries.

"He doesn’t know enough to know what it is he would have to do to illustrate that to have the medical examiner say that, he's not going to know, none of us would," said O'Neill.

Chittenden Country State's Attorney T.J. Donovan declined to talk about specifics of the case, but says his team is confident in the evidence.

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