Kendrick Johnson and the coming battle of expert witnesses regarding cause of death

November 10, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Good evening:

Although I have been away all day attending to various matters, my mind has never strayed far from Kendrick Johnson and the coming battle of experts regarding whether his death was accidental, which is the medical examiner’s opinion, or a homicide, which is the opinion held by the forensic pathologist Kendrick’s parents retained to determine Kendrick’s cause of death after his body was exhumed. The outcome of this battle will determine if the inquiry into his death will turn into a criminal investigation in search of a suspect or suspects to be charged and prosecuted or be closed on the ground that it was a tragic accident and not a homicide.

If the medical examiner loses the battle of the experts, I doubt the United States Attorney will prosecute the case because he lacks jurisdiction to prosecute a murder case unless it was a hate crime, which is the same barrier that the Department of Justice is facing in deciding whether to prosecute George Zimmerman. I think an independent special prosecutor will have to be appointed to replace the current prosecutor because his objectivity will have been been compromised by the position he took backing the medical examiner. I believe the same is true for the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that employed the medical examiner and endorsed his conclusions. To say that a lot is riding on the outcome of the battle of the experts is a vast understatement.

Without discovery, I cannot predict the outcome. Nevertheless, I know a lot about autopsies and how they are conducted, so I can provide you with an accurate idea of what to expect and a preview of the coming battle.

Right now the dispute appears to concern whether Kendrick sustained a blunt force traumatic injury to the right side of his neck. The forensic pathologist retained by Kendrick’s family concluded that he did and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s medical examiner apparently did not find such an injury. He and the GBI have reviewed the report of the second autopsy and they have issued statements saying they stand by his original report.

The dispute likely will be about the detection of subcutaneous bruising in an African American male. Bruising is easier to see on a white person because the skin is a lighter color. The darker the skin, the more difficult it is to spot bruising. In any case where blunt force trauma is suspected, it’s a good idea to cut into the skin with a scalpel and visually examine the tissue beneath the skin for evidence of broken blood vessels. If you find it, the next thing to do is to photograph what you found and attempt to determine the boundaries and shape of the bruised area. Then section the tissue and prepare slides for viewing with a microscope.

Although the medical examiner’s office did the right thing to section organ tissue on slides for preservation and viewing, he may have screwed up by not doing the same thing with Kendrick Johnson’s neck tissue. This will likely be the hotly disputed issue with the medical examiner claiming that the so-called evidence of blunt trauma was really due to a post mortem impact or an advanced state of decomposition, or both.

The loss of Kendrick’s internal organs is inexcusable. If the medical examiner was responsible, that will severely hurt his credibility

The manner in which he conducted the autopsy will be fair game. You will want to check and see if he followed standard operating procedure. For example, the body must first be placed on butcher paper to prevent the loss of trace evidence and then x-rayed to spot bullets, assorted shrapnel and the like, objects in pockets and broken bones.

Then the body must be visually examined and photographed from head to foot, face up and face down, before the clothes are removed and visually examined for evidence of an injury, such as a bullet hole, puncture or cutting and bleeding. Underwear should be examined for ejaculate and discharge. Clothing should be dried if wet and packaged in brown paper bags sealed with the exhibit number, date and initials of the person who packaged the article written across the seal. This is done to document chain of custody and to discourage tampering.

The photographic process is repeated after the clothes have been removed with special attention given to any injuries, including bruising.

It’s vitally important to follow this procedure during every autopsy to avoid missing something important. Nothing should be assumed and every possibility must be considered before it is ruled out.

The failure to spot a significant injury, even if it did not actually cause death, is inexcusable and is the sort of mistake that could result in an erroneous conclusion such as accidental death due to positional asphyxiation instead of a homicide committed by blunt force trauma to the neck disabling the victim followed by rolling the victim up in a mat and stowing it in an upright position with the victim upside down inducing death by positional asphyxiation.

Right now we have a battle between two forensic pathologists. No doubt each side will attempt to sign-up at least one and possibly several experts who will support the conclusion reached by its expert. Does this mean we are likely to hear from Dr. Vincent DiMaio again?

I sincerely hope not, but only time will tell.

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HLN reenactment falsely portrays shooting

June 4, 2013

June 4, 2013

Good afternnoon:

Vinnie Politano and his “expert” death investigator, Joseph Scott Morgan, stumbled badly out of the HLN starting gate with a false reenactment of the shooting that is inexcusable hall-of-shame material. Here’s the video of the reenactment:

Come on, son.

Reenactments are supposed to exactly reproduce the event being reenacted. They are misleading and worthless, if they do not.

This reenactment did not come close to reproducing the defendant’s description of the shooting because he told the police that, after Trayvon sucker-punched him in the nose to prevent him from calling the police and he fell down on his back, Trayvon mounted him in a seated position straddling his body and began raining down blows to his nose and face MMA style before switching to grab the sides of the defendant’s head and repeatedly slam the back of the defendant’s head against the concrete sidewalk. Then, as the defendant began crying out for help, Trayvon attempted to silence and smother the defendant by placing one hand over the defendant’s mouth and the other over the nose. That is when the defendant claims that he felt Trayvon’s hand on his chest sliding toward the gun that the defendant had concealed from view in a holster inside his pants against the back of his right hip. The defendant said he pinned Trayvon’s hand against his chest with the upper part of his right arm and then grabbed the gun with his right hand and fired the fatal shot taking care not to shoot his left hand.

According to the defendant, Trayvon was never standing over him leaning forward in the position taken by Politano. Indeed none of the hitting, slamming and smothering events described by the defendant would have been possible, if Trayvon were in a standing position.

So much for the defendant’s claim that he reasonably believed he was in imminent danger of death or serious injury such that he had to use deadly force to survive the encounter. Call me psychic, but somehow I do not think that is what Politano intended to demonstrate.

According to the defendant, they were in this position with Trayvon on top.

Here’s LLMPapa’s video:

Of course, it would not have been possible for Trayvon to have seen much less reached the gun from this position.

Therefore, we know the defendant was lying.

Since he and his expert ignored the defendant’s statement, what were they attempting to demonstrate?

I believe they were attempting to account for a straight-on shot front to back where the muzzle of the gun was in contact with the hoodie and shirt underneath it, but the fabric was 2 to 12 inches from the entry wound.

May I have a drum roll, please. Time to pull out ye olde trusty sledgehammer and pound a square peg into a round hole.

Yup, Trayvon must have been leaning forward and the fabric was hanging straight down.

Nice try, but no cigar.

The crime lab analyst who examined the sweatshirt and shirt beneath it found that the cloth was stretched at the time the fatal shot was fired and we have independently verified that the holes in the fabric do not align with the entry wound. They are displaced from the vertical in a diagonal direction toward Trayvon’s right hip.

Mere gravity does not account for this displacement.

I will tell you what does, however. The defendant had a grip on the sweatshirt and shirt with his left hand restraining Trayvon from getting away as he took careful aim and fired.

Not coincidentally, this also explains why the defendant said he “aimed” before he squeezed off the fatal shot in order to avoid shooting his left hand.

Politano’s clueless expert reenacted the shooting by holding his fake red gun with both hands, which is contrary to the defendant’s narrative.

Finally, we know the defendant was on top because W18 witnessed the shooting and said he was on top.

Clean heels with wet grass and mud on the toes of the defendant’s boots are not consistent with the defendant’s claim that he shimmied in an atttempt to get out from under Trayvon.

The back of the defendant’s jacket was wet because it was raining, not because he was lying on his back in the grass. A photograph of the back of his jacket taken at the police station did not show any mud or grass present.

Two conclusions can be reached from the evidence. The defendant lied and he was not in imminent danger of death or serious injury when he fired the fatal shot. In fact, he was in control of Trayvon when he killed him.

That is not self-defense.

It is second degree murder.

(H/T to LLMPapa for the video and Ay2Z for the inspiration to write this post)


Trayvon Martin: The prosecution is not crumbling

March 26, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Now that W8 (Dee Dee) has apparently admitted during the defense deposition on March 13th that she lied when she told Benjamin Crump during a telephone interview and later confirmed to BDLR that she did not go to Trayvon Martin’s funeral because she was sick and went to a hospital, the inevitable question is:

How might this affect the trial?

First, do not expect to see her charged with perjury because BDLR’s question was ambiguous (i.e., went to a hospital or someplace) and her answer was not material (i.e., important enough to affect the outcome of the trial).

Second, let’s take a look at how this admission might come out at trial.

BDLR would ask her if she attended the wake or the funeral and she would answer, “No.”

BDLR would then ask her why not and she probably would answer that she was too upset and could not handle it.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the prosecution either did not move in limine (i.e., before the trial begins) to prohibit the defense from pursuing this line of inquiry pursuant to Rule 608(b) or if it did, Judge Nelson denied the motion, BDLR would have the option to end that line of inquiry (i.e., permitting the defense to bring it out on cross) or to proceed further and reveal her lie).

Any experienced prosecutor, and BDLR is experienced, would elect to reveal her lie in the least damaging manner possible rather than allow the defense to bring it out on cross in the most damaging manner possible.

This is how it might work:

BDLR: Do you recall Benjamin Crump interviewing you by phone in March of last year regarding your cell phone conversations with Trayvon before the shooting?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: Do you recall him asking you, if you went to Trayvon’s wake and funeral?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: What, if anything did you tell him?

DD: I told him that I did not go to either one.

BDLR: Was that truth?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: Did he ask why you did not go the funeral and the wake?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: What did you tell him?

DD: I told him I was sick and went to the hospital.

BDLR: Was that the truth?

DD: No.

BDLR: What was the truth?

DD: I was too upset and could not handle it.

BDLR: Why didn’t you tell him that?

DD: I did not want to admit to his mother that I was not strong enough to be there for her.

BDLR: Are you referring to Sybrina Fulton?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: Was Trayvon’s mother present when Mr. Crump interviewed you?

DD: Yes, she was in Mr. Crump’s office listening over the speaker phone.

BDLR: How did you know that?

DD: Mr. Crump introduced her and she said, “Hello.”

BDLR: Did there come a later time when I interviewed you in person?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: Do you recall when that was?

DD: I think it was about a month later.

BDLR: Was Trayvon’s mother present when I interviewed you?

DD: Yes, she gave me a ride to the office where you interviewed me and she sat next to me the whole time.

BDLR: Did you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth during the interview?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: Did I ask you if you went to the funeral and the wake?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: What did you say?

DD: I lied and told you that my blood pressure was very high and I went to the hospital instead.

BDLR: Do you suffer from high blood pressure?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: Why did you lie to me?

DD: I did not want to admit to Trayvon’s mother that I could not deal with what happened to Trayvon. I could not handle seeing him dead or in a casket, so I lied to her and to Mr. Crump.

BDLR: Are you sorry that you lied?

DD: Yes.

BDLR: Have you apologized to Trayvon’s mom and dad.

DD: Yes.

BDLR: Did you love Trayvon?

DD: Yes, I still do.

BDLR: Do you miss him?

DD: Yes, very much.

BDLR: Thank you. Your witness, counsel.

Picture this scene taking place before a jury in a crowded courtroom in June with a nation and the world looking on, after the prosecution has introduced all of its damning evidence against the defendant, including the medical examiner’s testimony using graphic color photos taken during the autopsy, as this young woman confesses her love and affection for Trayvon while baring her soul and tearfully confessing to her overwhelming sense of loss, responsibility, confusion, weakness and guilt.

If BDLR conducts the direct examination properly, as I believe he will, the best cross will be no cross. The jury will not take kindly to a defense attorney picking on her and prolonging her agony.

Finally, do not forget that the phone records and the other evidence in the case will independently confirm everything else she says about her conversation with Trayvon.

One understandable simple lie by Dee Dee is relatively unimportant compared to the vast ocean of lies uttered by the defendant in this case.

Is the prosecution crumbling? I don’t think so.

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Defendant Was Straddling Trayvon When He Fired the Kill Shot

February 9, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nefertari05 posted the following comment today at 2:54 pm.

“I am curious about one thing though. Many people have posted it is physically impossible to make that shot, with the straight trajectory, while laying on his back with Trayvon over him. I posted this thought many months ago, using a sexual position analogy, but I really don’t understand why if Zimmerman’s arm is raised at a 45 degree angle (aiming up, continuing the 45 degree angle), and Trayvon is leaning over, perpendicular to the gun, why it wouldn’t be a straight thru, no angle shot. Granted, I am no scientist, and my understanding of physics is elementary, at best, but a 45 degree angled arm (from a prone position), with Trayvon leaning over, perpendicular, seems like a straight shot to me. I know I’m missing something. I freely admit it. Can you explain to me what it is, so I have a better understanding?”

When medical examiners do autopsies on gunshot victims, they insert metal rods into the wounds and take photographs of the rods sticking out from the body so people can clearly see the angle of entry and trajectory of each bullet.

I have no doubt the assistant ME did the same thing with Trayvon’s bullet wound.

Couple that with expert testimony about the distance from which the fatal shot was fired and you get a pretty good idea of the location of the muzzle and the position of the gun relative to the location and position of Trayvon’s body.

Hold that image in your mind and imagine that you are the shooter lying on your back with the gun in a holster inside your waistband behind your right hip.

How do you get that gun out of the holster using only your right hand and maneuver it into the position it has to be in when the defendant fired the fatal shot?

Remember that he said he extended his arm, aimed to avoid shooting his left hand and fired.

The first problem is that his body is on top of the gun. He would have to roll over on his left hip to be able to reach the gun with his right hand and pull it out. This move probably would have thrown Trayvon off his body, but he never claimed that happened and, if it had, he would no longer have been reasonably in fear of imminent death or serious injury.

The second problem is that the presence of Trayvon’s thigh and lower leg would have complicated rolling to the left and blocked access to the gun. Also, the surface of the ground would have blocked and restricted movement of the elbow further complicating the draw (not to mention that there is no way Trayvvon could have seen the gun).

Third, I’m not sure, but I think he holstered the gun for a cross-draw with the left hand. If so, the gun butt would have been facing forward requiring an additional move to turn the gun around so that the muzzle was facing forward.

Fourth, then he had to position the gun between their bodies instead of just sticking it into Trayvon’s ribs and pulling the trigger.

All of these problems are avoided if he is on top straddling Trayvon with his knees and shins pinning Trayvon’s arms to the ground.

He could take his time, draw his gun, taunt Trayvon, aim and pull the trigger.

Mary Cutcher, Selma Mora and the teacher all said the shooter stood up immediately after the shot leaving the victim lying on the ground.

Finally, there is the displacement between the bullet holes in the two sweatshirts that align with each other, but not the wound that I have previously mentioned. The displacement indicates the defendant was gripping the sweatshirts with his left hand and pulling the sweatshirts down and to the left and away from Trayvon’s body toward himself, possibly to get his hand out of the line of fire, when he fired the kill shot.

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