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.