Thursday, January 31, 2013

Forensic Disputes

The  forensic expert on last night's show, Dr. Butts, had a very interesting theory about how the injuries to the skull occurred, and how the fracture was a complex injury resulting, "in his opinion" (he was careful to say) from a blow to one side of the head that might have been caused (my suggestion) by a hammer striking one side of the head while the child was placed down on a hard surface, and that would account for the way the injuries showed up on the brief autopsies.  Nowhere does he refer to the autopsy findings that we have.  Once again one must ask if because of time constraints something was left out from the interview with Dr. Butts.  Perhaps he did look at them carefully. (I am told he felt they were too sketchy to be of much use)  If so did he notice anything else in these reports that might have challenged his view that the child had a "mild case" of rickets?  Did he note any deformities, such as size of skull, fontanel not closed, shape of teeth, overlapping toes, etc.? For these were all there in the report.  Did he, then, look at the trial testimony of Dr. Mitchell describing the condition of the skull, as so fragile it came apart like an orange peel.  At a key point in the testimony Attorney Reilly promises to come back to that point - as he is intrigued - but never does.  Too bad, might have been interesting.

Then - in related fashion - we have Dr. Butts describing the child as normal with a "mild" case of rickets.  Two doctors who examined Charlie did not call the case "mild."  They were there 81 years and more ago, Dr. Butts was given written reports a few months ago.  I am sure he is very competent as a forensic examiner, but somehow I wish he might be on the stand for a defense attorney to question why his opinion differs so much from that of two attending physicians.

Now, let us come back to the injury.  I frankly have no idea how the child died, and am willing to agree that it could have been precisely as he concludes.  One wonders, nevertheless, if the child was dumped that night (subject of yet another post to come), why kill it in that manner? Remember Prosecutor Wilentz had a lot of trouble, a lot of trouble explaining how the child died, going from one explanation to another - including the idea that the child was bashed against the wall - or possibly struck with that 3/4" chisel left behind.  If it was carried away in a burlap bag (often cited as the transportation mechanism - and only glimpsed in the show as the picture of the men holding the ladder flashes by on your screen), then why not simply bash its head against a tree?  Of course you would need to be sure of death.  So maybe the hammer idea.  But why not strangle the child, a less complicated manner of committing murder, surely? Using the chisel only once in a car or against a car is far less sure than simply smothering the child.  Why I belabor this point is because of a concern that Dr. Butts is a tad too eager to offer his explanations off the cuff.  No doubt I am wrong, and there is much more to see in his interviews.  But, one must say, that as they stand, they are hardly convincing.  And we have the testimony of discovering officers that they poked a hold in the skull when trying to turn it over.  Of course, if Dr. Butts is correct, they must be wrong.  No doubt.  Too bad, however, Captain Harry Walsh the man who did that isn't around to interview.