Day 16: Updates
5:00pm Update: Adjournment
A full recap of the day’s activity hits around 7:00pmET… The prosecution finds its feet and the defense tries to trip them up.
3:00pm Update – If the Knife Doesn’t Fit…
Detective Bryan Waid was called back to the stand to authenticate the “exemplar” knife obtained by MPD to act as a dummy of the missing Ward knife. Waid calls Wusthoff, gives them the set number, Wusthoff sends knife to Waid. Easy, yes?
Not for David Schertler. Objections rang out through Waid’s (re-re?) direct, notably when Kirschner asked Waid to place the knife in the box. Too late.
Schertler quickly moved to cross. “You think that fits?” he asked Waid. (Wait for it). Yes, he replied. Judge Leibovitz sighs.
Fumbling by Schertler with knife set follows. “Now that you’ve forced it, do you think it fits?” asks Schertler (wait for it…). Yes, says Waid. “Do you see how much play there is?” Yes…
Although it must have been running through every brain in that courtroom, it’s at this point one in the media pen breaks first and whispers “…if the knife don’t fit, you must acquit.” Muffled groans. [Ed note: we'll withhold reporter's name, unless they tell us otherwise]
Schertler worked hard to keep the knife from being admitted…to no avail. It’s in the box, and it’s now officially part of the evidence.
The day is not over, however. Judge Leibovitz is reading the filings in the motion for acquittal (Rule 29) right now, and has instructed counsel – over their muted objections – that oral argument will begin today at 4pm.
No rest for the weary today.
After the morning break Dr. Fowler continued compelling expert testimony as to Robert’s wounds, cardiac tamponade, knife wounds, and other forensic opinion.
Connolly’s cross focused mostly on the opinions of a witness for the defense, Vincent Di Maio. It’s Di Maio’s opinion that, among other things, the recovered knife is consistent with the wounds, there’s no medical evidence that Robert was immobilized, and the blood found on scene is consistent with the injuries. (Note: Di Maio testified for the defense in the Phil Spector trial).
While Foster holds Di Maio in great esteem, and agrees with him on a number of points, there was some separation on immobilization. “You could come to that opinion,” offered Fowler, but said he found it hard to believe. “Is his opinion unreasonable?” asked Connolly. “No, he’s entitled to it,” responded Fowler, to court-room laughter.
Bernie Grimm brought back show and tell to the proceedings. Using photos, posters, quarters, rulers, syringes, and an oversized cut-away model of the human heart (“certainly not the size of a heart of a lawyer,” he quipped), Grimm tried hard to knock small holes into Fowler’s findings.
Discussing tamponade, Grimm had Fowler demonstrate on the model with the exemplar knife the nature of Robert’s highest wound – the one that punctured the sternum, pericardial sac and aortic root. He tried to connect “closed” vs. “open” tamponade – unsuccessfully. Using the quarter, ruler and syringe he tried build the argument that Robert’s wound “gushed” blood into the pericardial sac, rendering him immobile in seconds. Not really so much, according to Fowler.
(Ed note: In our wrap up post today we’ll include more direct quotes. For the moment we just want to hit the basics.)
David Schertler’s cross seemed to stem from base-line arguments about the limits of medical certainty. “There’s a bit of guesstimating here,” he noted about Fowler’s estimates of tamponade within 30-40 seconds, and unconsciousness 8-10 seconds later. Fowler parried each of Schertler’s thrusts.
The arguments got even more basic. “Just because there’s no evidence of movement doesn’t mean Mr. Wone didn’t move, is that correct?” “Yes, responded Fowler, but with a larger sense of “…and?” hanging in the room. While never arguing with defense counsel, and granting a number of their points, Fowler seemed to wrap each cross with just a bit more credibility.
Kirschner re-direct followed, put back on the table was the issue of knife size; specifically that the missing knife from Ward’s bedroom is more consistent with the wounds and evidence found than the knife found at the crime scene.
Using today’s first-learned information of bruising found above the top (sternum) wound on Robert, Kirschner asked Fowler to compare knife lengths (5 5/8″ for the found knife, approx. 4 1/2″ for the exemplar missing knife), bruise locations, hilt size, asking which would be more likely to be the weapon.
For Fowler, the 5 5/8″ knife was “getting a little long…at the high edge of consistency”, while the 4 1/2″ knife was “right in the middle of the range.”
Last note: Kirschner followed up with Tom Connolly’s earlier question if the blood found on the scene was consistent with the wounds. “Yes, but…”, replied Fowler, with Connolly declining to follow up on “but.” Not Mr. Kirschner.
In Dr. Fowler’s mind, any pressure being applied to the right side of Robert to stanch blood flow would have resulted in more blood being moved to the right of his body…and more blood being pressed or just oozing on that side. No evidence of that was found.
Earlier updates from the morning session follow.
10:45 Update: Ending with a Bang
Dr. David Fowler took the stand today, and has commanded the courtroom for the last hour and a half.
Board certified on two continents, author, lecturer, conductor of over 6,000 autopsies, and Chief Medical Examiner for Maryland the last eight years, Dr. Fowler has marched the court through a wide range of information on Wone’s autopsy.
Much more to come later, but things we’re learning: there were abrasions – bruises – near the highest wound on Robert – the one through his sternum. These bruises, on a 4-5″ wound, are highly consistent with the hilt of the knife striking the body.
Also from Fowler: “The orientation of the wounds immediately catches your eye. It’s very unusual for an individual to stay still enough.”
Also learning: his findings were peer reviewed; his vast experience with knife wounds while practicing in South Africa; Robert’s open cardiac tamponade – nor the three wounds in conjunction – would have incapacitated Robert immediately; and the “remarkable” similarity of the knife wounds.
9:00am Update: Light Trial Schedule, Heavy Decisions
The prosecution intends to rest today after calling its final two witnesses. One of the two will be Dr. David Fowler, Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Maryland. He will back up the testimony of DC Deputy Medical Examiner Lois Gosilnoski. Fowler’s testimony is crucial for the prosecution for several reasons. He is not only board certified, something that Goslinoski is not, but he is double board certified in anatomic and forensic pathology. Goslinoski suffered a withering attack from the defense for failing to pass the board exam twice, so the defense will not able to pursue this line of attack against Fowler. Fowler is also expected to testified that Robert did not die instantly from cardiac tamponade.
The other witness hadn’t been scheduled until AUSA Glenn Kirschner found out yesterday afternoon during the stipulations’ portion that the photo of the replica of the missing knife from Dylan Ward’s room had not actually been entered as evidence into the trial. While he thought it had been entered, he quickly recovered and said that the prosecution would call another witness to ensure that it was.
After these two witnesses, the prosecution will rest their case.
Then Rule 29 motion to acquit from the defense and the government’s response, even in an outline form, have to be in hands of the Judge by 12 noon. Whether Judge Liebovitz will rule immediately, take a lunch break and then decide or take the rest of the afternoon off and announce her decision tomorrow is up in the air.
Judge Liebovitz has a matter at 9:30, and this case is called to start at 9:45.