BROOKLYN SUPREME COURT — It was a chilling end to a chiilling trial.
The lights in Brooklyn Supreme Court suddenly flickered and went out as Justice Patricia DiMango prepared to sentence Carlotta Brett-Pierce, the brazen Brooklyn mother convicted of killing her 4-year-old disabled daughter Marchella after beating and starving her for months in their Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment.
At autopsy, her battered body weighed just 17 pounds.
"What kind of person could do this to a child, let alone their own child?" DiMango asked the packed courtroom Wednesday, before imposing the maximum sentence of 25 years to life for murder, with an additional seven years for assault.
"Marchella lived in a hell that was created and maintained by you, Ms. Brett-Pierce," DiMango said, calling the tearful mom "self-centered, volitile and belligerent."
"Marchella’s brothers received food, water and medical care," DiMango said. "You knowingly, coldly and without remorse ignored her need for basic sustenance."
Clad in a brown suede miniskirt and a eye-catching necktie, the normally brash Brett-Pierce appeared quiet and subdued throughout the hearing, daubing away tears as Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Kagan and DiMango described Marchella's injuries.
"I do accept responsibility for some of the mistakes made on my behalf, but I do not accept responsibility for my daughter’s actual death, because in fact I did not kill her," Brett-Pierce said. "This is a tragedy. I pray that my daughter's life was not in vain."
The mom said she was a good parent who was simply overwhelmed trying to care for her frail daughter and her infant as well as her now 7-year-old sons, whose frequently incarcerated father she described as abusive.
"I made bad choices—that is part of being human," Brett-Pierce said. "I want the people to see that I am a loving and caring mother of three. During the trial, I was made to seem like I was embarrassed of my daughter. It’s not true. I loved my daughter — I’m very proud of all my children."
But as of Wednesday, the court ensured she would never see any of her children again.
As a part of the sentence, the judge imposed a 100-year order of protection that forbids any contact between Brett-Pierce and her two surviving children.
"You are to let them live and thrive in peace and safety and comfort," DiMango said.
As for Marchella's her older brother, Kagan described a child so traumatized by the abuse against his sister he couldn't bear to look his mother and grandmother, whose pictures he was shown as he prepared to testify. He asked for them to be turned over.
"Because it was thin paper and he could see the image on the other side, he asked that they be covered," Kagan said. "It was the people’s choice to call (Marchella's brother) as a witness, but the people did not make (him) a witness to this crime — the defendant did."
She went on to describe a child torn between his love for the mother and grandmother who cared for him and his horror at the neglect and abuse they piled on the sister he adored so much he brought food to her funeral.
The judge also imposed her mother Loretta Brett, who was convicted of manslaughter and will serve the maximum five to fifteen years in prison. Brett, once a certified Head Start teacher with a degree from Hunter College in Sociology and early childhood education claimed to know nothing of the horrific abuse despite sleeping in the same room where the emaciated girl died bound to a plastic Sponge Bob bed.
"There’s a great pain in my heart. I was there when her mother, my daughter, went into labor to bring her into this world, and I was there with her mother when we discovered she had left this world," Brett said. "I am deeply saddened by her passing."