4pm Update: An Early Day
The day’s wrap is coming soon. Until then:
Nicholas Petraco finished cross and re-direct, and the court rose. Tomorrow, one witness for the defense; court reconvenes at 2:15 pm.
1:30 Update: In-and-Out Burger
Surprise! Defense had asked to regroup mid-way through Petraco’s testimony, leading to a 10 minute break. Reconvening, Schertler rose to announce “no more questions, your Honor.”
“Does the government wish to begin cross? asked the bench. “Actually your Honor, we would prefer to take a lunch break now.” *sigh* Court sits at 2pm with the start of cross, likely by Rachel Carlson Lieber.
Sharp eyes did notice Doug Deedrick departing Moultrie with Kirschner and Martin. Any guesses as to the topic of discussion over lunch among those three? No wonder Carlson Lieber called for a lunch break.
Despite the defense winning dismissal of evidence tampering charges against Ward and Zaborsky, there seemed to be little apparent joy. Zaborsky smiled and nodded, and turned to Ward for a brief acknowledgment. Price remained stoic, and the legal teams on both sides seemed unsurprised.
Another observation: while Dr. Fowler commanded the witness stand, and Doug Deedrick himself at least held the full room’s attention, Mr. Petraco seems to know how to clear a room. We don’t mean to be catty – certainly his testimony is important, and he knows his stuff. But he seems less to command the witness stand and more just occupy it.
Lastly, on this day – the 16th anniversary of the O.J. Simpson car chase – we note the continuing presense of much of Washington’s media stalwarts. Shout-outs to Keith Alexander (WaPo), Pat Collins (WRC-TV), Mark Segraves (WTOP Radio), Paul Wagner (WTTG-TV), Steven Tschida (WJLA-TV/News8), Emily Babay (DC Examiner) and Rend Smith (City Paper) for near perfect attendance. Also clear: Lynn Leibovitz is no Lance Ito.
Last, we always appreciate meeting readers – do feel free to drop by and introduce yourselves. We’re easy to spot.
We’re in short break from expert testimony from the defense’s first witness, one Nicholas Petraco, a hair and fiber forensic expert. The thrust of his testimony under direct of David Schertler so far: the colorless fibers found on the recovered knife, Robert’s t-shirt and the white cotton towel as indistinguishable.
An update on schedule: the defense intends to bring 8 witnesses, 5 or 6 of them expert. Their case will take 5-6 days “…at the outside…”, with just Petraco today, and only one witness tomorrow (assuming Petraco is finished.) The defense had sought to take a day to “reload” as Grimm termed it, but Leibovitz was unconvinced. “I’d like to have a trial here,” she noted.
So barring changes, trial starts late Friday at 2pm; Monday will be a full day.
11:10am Update: BULLETIN
On the defense motion to acquit, Judge Lynn Leibovitz only rolls back two charges: tampering on Ward and Zaborsky.
All other charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy remain in play. Price still has all three charges hanging over him. The defense will proceed with their case today.
9:15am Update: What We Promised
Court reconvenes at 11:00am to hear the last of the government’s response, and defense counter, to the motion to acquit brought under Rule 29. We expect Judge Leibovitz to rule quickly on each of the defendants, and then move to the defense case…if one is needed.
Yesterday was fairly thick in content, and with it all we were unable to offer something we felt important for the record: as much of Dr. David Fowler’s direct testimony as we could offer…keeping in mind we are not court reporters.
When we use quotes here, we’re reasonably confident it’s a mostly accurate quote. Lack of quotation marks signals our best summation of his comments, and ellipses mark breaks in his comments.
For the record, State of Maryland Chief Medical Examiner, Fowler studied at the University of Cape Town, where he specialized in forensic pathology. There he personally conducted around 3,000 autopsies, many of them sharp force trauma (there are about 8 stabbings for every shooting in the RSA, which is almost reverse in the USA.)
Fowler came to the U.S., took additional training in anatomic and forensic pathology, and has been with the Maryland Medical Examiner’s office since.
In reviewing the case, Dr. Fowler saw autopsy records, photos, police records and various tissue samples. He specifically examined Robert’s sternum, heart and pericardial sac, and reviewed x-rays of Robert’s chest.
Quotes from Dr. Fowler, as best we could catch them, follow.
-Courtroom artwork courtesy of WTTG-TV and William Hennessy, Jr.
Fowler on direct:
“The orientation of the wounds…in the 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock position…immediately catches your eye. It’s very unusual…for an individual to say still enough…” to not cause any deformities. “Once you go further, the depth is almost identical, and the wound paths also.”
Kirschner: Have you ever seen such uniformity in a case such as this?
Fowler: Not with this degree of precision, no.
On stabbing a human:
The sternum has 2 layers; an outer layer, a marrow core and an inner layer. “It’s a substantial bone…it’s surprisingly easy to pass a knife through a human in most situations. Skin is like old leather…and the muscles are like meat, very much like a steak. Bone is another matter, it’s very resistant and will take substantial force.”
On the needle marks:
“There are two spots on the lateral side of the anticubital fossa (elbow)…it looks like they came near or after the time of death (as there was a lack of minor hemorrhage.) There are two more wounds on the ankle however with signs of hemorrhage, which suggests antemortem wounds.”
On defensive wounds:
“Defensive wounds are associated with defensive posturing – you either withdraw yourself from a noxious stimulus or you place something in the way. It’s reflexive; if something comes at your eye you can’t help but blink…The hands, back of hands, back of forearms, even the feet – any extremity that’s not vital…The lack of blood on his hands was somewhat remarkable, because in addition to protecting yourself, you normally grasp at a wound.”
On “defects” to wounds:
“There’s usually relative movement: the wounds zigzag on the top, elongate at the bottom…there are abrasions, and multiple wound paths.”
Kirschner: Did you find any of those imperfections on Mr. Wone?
On cardiac tamponade:
Closed tamponade is normally seen in clinical practice. The pericardial sac is completely closed, but there’s been a defect in, say, the aorta while attempting to insert a stent. Open tamponade – there’s a hole in the pericardial sac as well, so there’s partial release. ” The slit in his (Robert’s) paricardial sac is almost the same size of the aortic hole – so it’s going to take longer to fill.”
Kirschner: Were any of Robert’s wounds immediately incapacitating?
Fowler: Not in my opinion.
Kirschner: Were all three of Robert’s wounds together immediately incapacting?
Kirschner: Were any of them instantly fatal?
Kirschner: Could he have moved?
Kirschner: Reflexively, would you have expected him to move?
Kirschner: Does some degree of open tamponade override reflexive movement?
Kirschner: How long could he have survived these wounds?
Kirschner: Would any of those injuries incapacitated him?
Fowler: He would lose consciousness at some point, perhaps :45 seconds to 1 minute.
Kirschner: Could he have moved in that minute?
Fowler: That’s the usual definition of consciousness.
Kirschner: Have you identified any reason why he couldn’t move?
Kirschner: Did he move?
More updates to follow on Judge Leibovitz’ ruling on the pending defense the motion to acquit.