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DA argues against defense claim in murder trial

LAWRENCEVILLE - Defense attorneys for the O'Connell sisters rested their cases late Tuesday, opening the door for a rebuttal that attacked the defense's core argument - that both girls had been driven to murder their mother by battered person's syndrome.

In her rebuttal, Dawn Taylor, Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney, called a psychiatrist who testified neither girl appeared to suffer from "BPS" - nor any sort of post traumatic stress disorder - prior to their mother's slaying.

"You have to be battered to have BPS," said Dr. Richard Elliott, who has interviewed the defendants and studied most case records. "I don't see battery here that would justify using this kind of force."

Defense attorneys for Brenda and Catherine O'Connell, both charged with killing their adoptive mother in August 2006, challenged Elliott's credibility in the areas he testified to. Superior Court Judge Tom Davis allowed his testimony to stand.

The 17-year-old adopted sisters face murder, felony murder and aggravated assault charges in the death of Muriel O'Connell, a 57-year-old Buford resident who'd adopted them separately from a Guatemalan orphanage. They face life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors say the girls orchestrated their mother's death by strangling her in her sleep. Defense attorneys argue the girls were defending themselves against an abusive parent.

Closing arguments in the trial are expected early Thursday.