- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - The first-degree murder conviction of a Hull man found guilty of causing the death of his 4-year-old daughter by overmedicating her with prescription drugs was upheld Tuesday by the state’s highest court.

The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction of Michael Riley and denied motions for a new trial and for funds to retain a toxicologist.

Riley and his wife, Carolyn, were convicted in separate trials in 2010 of the death four years earlier of their daughter, Rebecca. Carolyn Riley was found guilty of second-degree murder. The couple concocted symptoms of bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the girl to try to collect Social Security disability benefits, then overmedicated her on drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist, according to prosecutors.

A state medical examiner found that Rebecca died of a combination of Clonidine, a blood pressure medication she had been prescribed for ADHD; Depakote, a mood-stabilizing drug prescribed for bipolar disorder; and two over-the-counter drugs, a cough suppressant and an antihistamine. The medical examiner said the amount of Clonidine in Rebecca’s system was enough to be fatal.

The defense said Rebecca died of a severe, fast-moving pneumonia, not a drug overdose.

Michael Riley made several arguments in his appeal, including that he had an ineffective trial lawyer who among other things failed to present evidence to rebut prosecutors’ claims that he was responsible for the long-term overmedication of Rebecca and the couple’s other two children. He argued on appeal that his wife was primarily responsible for administering medication.

He also said in the appeal that the trial judge should not have allowed the jury to hear about extensive “bad character” evidence, including allegations that Michael Riley assaulted his son and verbally abused all his children.

The court disagreed with Riley on all points.

“The judge did not abuse his discretion in denying the defendant’s claim that his counsel was ineffective in handling the critical issue of toxicological evidence at trial,” the court wrote in the decision.

Riley also asked the high court to reduce the conviction to involuntary manslaughter, which was denied.

His appeals lawyer did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

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