Summer Heat, German Knives and Ninja Turtle Sandboxes
The trial began today promptly, as is Judge Leibovitz habit, at 9:45am with defense attorney Bernie Grimm advising the court that setting up a video Skype call for one of the defense experts was not an issue anymore. The witness would be on a plane and at the courthouse by tomorrow noon-time.
The first witness of the day was the famous Dr. Henry Lee, the direct led by Bernie Grimm. After a lengthy introduction of Dr. Lee’s credentials, particularly citing Dr. Lee’s role as a distinguished professor and director of the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science, he was accepted an an expert witness in the areas of blood pattern analysis and crime scene reconstruction.
In defining blood patterns, Dr. Lee went on to define the general term of a “blood smear” stating that that term encompassed three types of blood patterns: 1) touch sometimes with movement, 2) swipe and wipe (example – knife dipped into ketchup and wiped) and 3) contact stain which involves two surfaces with direct contact transfer of the blood.
In his testimony, Dr. Lee indicated that his examination of the crime scene towel identified three significant blood stains – 1B, 2 and 3. Dr. Lee also applied the reagent tetramethylbenzidine, a presumptive test for detecting one part blood in a million to enhance his research. The stain labeled 1B was described by Dr. Lee as about six inches long, the heaviest portion being a direct contact stain, which could be from applying pressure to a surface.
He felt that portions of the stain could have been made from fingers that were involved in applying pressure. Lighter portions of the stain were most likely made from movement while pressure was being applied. When questioned as to the type of surface that the pressure was applied to, Dr. Lee stated that it could be a body or it could be a table. He also stated he did not feel the blood from 1B could have been used to transfer blood from the towel to the knife found at the scene.
The stains labeled 2 and 3 were thought to be secondary transfer of the blood, with the area 3 stain showing some smearing, but no definitive pattern. These would have been the result of the towel coming into contact with a bloody surface, but without any indication of pressure being applied. When shown a crime scene photo of the rolled up towel on the floor next to the sofa bed, Lee felt these stains were consistent with a transfer from the folds in the towel.
The testimony then moved onto the bloody knife found at the scene. Dr. Lee indicated that the blood smear on the knife was common in stabbing, and also pointed out numerous hairs near the base of the blade and fatty tissue on the surface of the knife. The appearance would not be consistent with blood applied to the knife from a towel. He noted that there were multiple stabbing with the knife because of the multiple smears and unevenness of the smears. Dr. Lee’s comments on the prosecution’s witness, Douglas Deedrick, was that his exemplar knife to demonstrate how the blood pattern could be a result of wiping and dabbing the knife with blood from a towel was not similar to the blood pattern on the crime scene knife.
Dr. Lee also examined the fitted sheet, pillow case, pillow, mattress pad, and t-shirt. His observations concluded that the two larger stains on the sheet were most likely from blood flow from Robert’s body, some flowing towards his next towards the pillow, and some flowing down the front and onto the sheet. No movement of the body was evident in his observation. Dr. Lee estimated that about 100 cc’s of blood would have made these two stains, about 1/40th of total blood volume.
Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner proceeded with his cross-examination of Dr. Lee. When asked about the volume of blood found at the scene, Dr. Lee stated that there was no struggle – less struggle from the victim results in less blood, while if there was more of a struggle, generally more blood is apparent. He reiterated that he felt the stains were made by less that 100 cc. of Robert’s blood, and the stains on the towel were from as little as 5-10 cc. of blood. Lee also felt that even if the towel were used to apply pressure, that 5-10 cc. would have made the stains.
Upon examining the t-shirt, Dr. Lee concluded that the some stains existed from the stabbing and flow of blood, but the extensive staining of the rest of the shirt was a result of the transport of Robert’s body and subsequent medical intervention. As to the blood on the t-shirt, Dr. Lee said that he did not know whether to expect blood on the back of the t-shirt.
On cross-examination about the knife, Dr. Lee reiterated that three separate stab wounds would produce three separate patterns on the knife. When asked if applying blood from a towel could reproduce these patterns, he said it could be reproduced but “…that is faulty science.” When comparing the crime scene knife to the test knife submitted by Douglas Deedrick, Dr. Lee stated that certain patterns were from air in the blood forming a spot when drying as when a bubble breaks.
When asked to comment on the amount of blood on the edge of the knife, whether it could have been applied with a towel, Dr. Lee said he did not know. When asked why the amount of blood on the knife edge was hard to see in the photographs, Dr. Lee said that was most likely from the illumination and reflections when the photograph was taken, prompting Judge Leibovitz to comment “…so you are saying this is an illusion”. Lee then conceded there was indeed blood on the knife edge, but less than on the surface of the blade.
On redirect from defense attorney David Schertler, Lee said that only about 10% of stabbing cases showed defensive wounds of the approximately 1000 he has reviewed. The victim could have been sound asleep, restrained, or incapacitated if the perpetrator was a martial arts expert who knew critical pressure points.
To Lee, the three precise wounds, depth, and proximity were not surprising. When asked about transferring blood from a towel to a knife, Lee conceded, “I cannot not rule that out 100% that the transfer could not be done, but it would be a lot of transfer and one would expect it to clean off any hairs.” Lee felt Deedrick should have conducted more types of tests. Redirect from Bernie Grimm elicited a comment from Lee that it would be difficult to transfer hairs and fatty tissue from a towel to a knife. When asked if the crime scene showed evidence of staging, Lee replied, “No.”
The next witness of the day was Dr. Vincent DiMaio. After review of his credentials, Dr. DiMaio – board certified in anatomical, clinical and forensic pathology – was admitted as an expert in forensic pathology. On a side note, Dr. DiMaio (like Dr. Henry Lee) testified in the trial of Phil Spector for the murder of Lana Clarkson; Dr. DiMaio taking the position that Ms. Clarkson pulled the trigger on herself, committing suicide. Spector is now behind bars.
Dr. DiMaio reviewed the autopsy and medical examiner’s records of Robert Wone. He indicated that he saw nothing unusual in the three stab wounds inflicted on Robert, that the lack of fish-tailing was not unusual if there was absence of movement from the victim or if the victim and the perpetrator moved in the same direction as the wounds were inflicted. On the lack of defensive wounds, Dr. DiMaio stated that a majority of stabbing victims (about 60%) do not exhibit defensive wounds as written in published medical literature. He felt nothing else could be concluded about the stabbing and that a medical examiner could not arrive at any definitive conclusion, since “some victims drop and some keep on going”.
On the depth of the wounds and the length of the knife blade, Dr. DiMaio said that variable in the depth also included the victim’s breathing and heart beating at the time of the stabbing, and the force of the knife as it penetrated tissue. His conclusion that the knife found at the crime scene was consistent with the wounds since the width of the blade was consistent with the wounds themselves. He felt that no other conclusions could be drawn.
As to the bruising at the wound site on Robert’s sternum as brought up by the prosecution witness Dr. David Fowler, DiMaio commented, “This could be a result of chest compression during CPR,” and could not be interpreted. The same for the amount of blood in the abdomen, the volume is not an indicator of how long the victim lived after the stabbing. His summary of the scenario was, “…victim asleep in bed and stabbed three times from above.”
On cross-examination by Glenn Kirshner, DiMaio admitted that no cases “come to mind” that had three identical wounds through different types of tissue. When pressed on the statistic that 60% of stabbing victims show no defensive wounds, DiMaio stated the source was a paper published from Turkey. When asked about reflexive reaction from the victim, DiMaio said, “possibly, but not if unconscious.”
On re-direct from David Schertler, DiMaio stated “…no pathologist can say whether the victim moved or did not move…victim was most likely asleep when the stabbing occurred and all else is speculation.” Judge Leibovitz asked for clarification, “Are you talking voluntary or involuntary responses?” Dr. DiMaio said, “Voluntary only,” whereupon Schertler asked if there could have been reflexive response in this instance. DiMaio: “would not expect reflexive.”
Diane Ward, the mother of defendant Dylan Ward, was the next witness called by the defense. Nervous and weeping, Ms. Ward testified that the taped address label on the cutlery box set was her handwriting. The label was addressed to a John Gisdovich, of Oregon, the second husband of Needham Ward’s (Dylan’s father) mother with a return address of a Box in an APO, New York NY. Ms. Ward stated that she must have sent the knife set to her mother- and father-in-law sometime between 1978 and 1981 when she and Needham were living in Germany. Needham was stationed in Germany at that time.
After the death of her mother-in-law, Needham’s sister, Sue, most likely sent the knife sent back to the giver when settling her mother’s estate. At the time, Ms. Ward stated that she most likely put the set away, and could not recall a date when she gave the set to Dylan. When asked if she recalled that not all three implements were in the box, she said that she is certain that she kept the small knife to “fill-in her knife block” which was missing some knives, concluding that the set was incomplete when she gave it to Dylan.
After Dylan was arrested, one of her other sons, Josh, told her about a cutlery set that was missing a knife that was cited in the investigation. She then put her initials on the knife she thought was the one missing and sent it to the attorneys. She also sent a second Wustoff knife that was similar, because she could not tell which was the one from the set.
When asked why the handle of the knife that fit the set, that she forwarded to the attorneys, was worn and tarnished, she said it was because she washed it in the dishwasher. On cross examination, prosecution attorney Rachel Carlson Lieber asked if Ms. Ward had perhaps purchased several knives in Germany and sent them to friends and family as gifts, to which Ms. Ward replied affirmatively.
The babysitter and housekeeper for Gregory Ingram nearby at 1511 Swann Street, Ms. Glenda L. King, was the next defense witness. At the time of Robert’s murder, Ms. King had been the babysitter and housekeeper for about 1 1/2 years. On the day of August 2, 2006, Ms. King said that she put the garbage from 1511 out in the alley, locked the gate, and went home to Annandale, VA somewhere between 2:00 and 2:30PM. On August 3, 2006, Ms. King said she heard a news report about a robbery at 1509 Swann Street and decided to come into to town to make certain that 1511 had not been burglarized. Upon arriving at 1511 she noted several policemen in and around 1509.
After checking 1511 and noting there had been no break-in, she inspected the back yard and noticed that the sandbox, located next to the fence between 1511 and 1509, had its turtle cover crushed. She stated that the sandbox was always covered to prevent animals and water from getting into it. She then notified the police working at 1509 and showed them the sandbox with the inverted cover. When asked if she knew when the photographs of the backyard of 1511 and the sandbox cover were taken by the police, Ms. King stated she did not know when they were taken or what the police activity had been at the time.
On cross-examination by Glenn Kirschner, Ms. King stated that the sandbox was maybe 1 1/2 feet high, and acknowledged that the chair next to the sandbox was considerable higher. Several questions regarding the fences at 1511 and 1509 as to their height and composition compared to those installed since 2006 were asked, with Ms. King confirming that the fence depicted in a 2006 police photograph as the fence at 1511 at that that time.
Tomorrow’s defense witness will be Dr. Nijam, fresh off a flight from London. Dr. Nijam will not arrive until noon, and to productivity use the available morning time, the trial will reconvene at 10:30AM to discuss prosecution witnesses for rebuttal and the possible admission of new photographs taken by Douglas Deedrick after hearing defense witness Nicholas Petraco’s testimony.