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Lawyers spar, then Riverhead jury gets infant-death case

Prosecutors called the man accused of killing his infant son in 2011 "callous" and "indifferent to human life" because he was more worried about going to work the day the child died.

Assistant District Attorney Dana Brown began her closing arguments holding a picture of the injuries to Jonathan Hertzler's bruised skull to counter the defense's earlier argument that there was no evidence Christopher Foster killed his son.

"Here it is," Brown said.

But Foster's defense lawyer countered there was no evidence he was the person who caused the injuries, and said there was another person in the household who was responsible.

Foster, 32, of Kings Park, is on trial before state Supreme Court Justice William Condon in Riverhead, charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child in the death of son Jonathan, who was 43 days old on Oct. 11, 2011, the day he died. His injuries included a fractured skull and broken bones. Prosecutors contend Foster never wanted the child.

Brown told jurors Foster was stoic the day police responded to his home after a frantic 911 call that his child was not breathing. Prosecutors replayed the call and Clarissa Hertzler, the baby's hysterical mother, was heard in the background while her mother talked to dispatchers. Brown reminded jurors of testimony from responding officers describing Foster as "an unemotional father."

"When the life of Jonathan Hertzler is trying to be saved, he's asking about trying to go work. . . . It's callous, it's indifferent to human life."

Defense attorneys counter that the baby's grandmother, who suffers from schizophrenia and lived with the family, may have caused the child's death.

"There is no evidence in this case that he did this," Foster's attorney, David Besso of Bay Shore, said.

Earlier, the judge allowed Foster's cousin Jonathan Foster to testify for the defense, despite prosecution objections.

Foster testified the baby's grandmother told him, " 'Jonathan, sometimes I hear voices to kill' " when he visited the apartment the day after the infant died.

When asked by Assistant District Attorney Eric Aboulafia to point out when he felt compelled to mention what the grandmother said, Foster responded he didn't think of it until he read a news report that the grandmother was schizophrenic.

"Sir, four years ago your cousin's child was murdered. . . . It didn't occur to you then that this person in that apartment the next day makes this outlandish statement to you?"

At times speaking over each other, Foster responded to Aboulafia as he was peppered with questions.

"It didn't occur to me at the time because it was so frantic in the house," he responded.

The jury began deliberations Wednesday and continues Thursday.

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