Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"SUICIDE," says the first witness for the defense

Even though the prosecution has not yet rested it's case in chief, Judge Fidler will not waste the jurors time, and the defense is directed to start their case. They started their case with a highly credentialed witness, Dr. Vincent DiMaio, former chief medical examiner for Bexar County, Texas. DiMaio, (who is board certified in three areas of pathology: anatomical, clinical and forensic) took the stand and entered into a long winded litany of his 30+ years of knowledge and experience. Plourd made sure to ask about his military career, as well as what's involved with his duties as editor of the Medical Journal of Forensic Pathology, more commonly known among professionals as "The Orange Journal." DiMaio, now retired, testified that as a hired consultant, he has the ability to pick and choose which cases he finds interesting to work on. I tried to keep my eye on the jury during the entire diatribe and I rarely saw any of the jurors take a note during most of that self serving testimony.

While Plourd continues with his questions in other areas, the jury is a mix of responses. Some appear interested, others do not. Plourd gets DiMiao to testify about the four books he's written. When Plourd gets to the title Gunshot Wounds, and if they are only available to those in the field, DiMiao responds, "It's available to anybody on Amazon dot com," the jury laughs, but few in the gallery do.

I see AJ lean back in his chair after the jury laughs. He interlaces his fingers, places his elbows on the table in front of him, and lightly rests his fingers on his chin. I write this note to Mr. Dunne: HE'S ENJOYING TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF AND HE SMILES A LOT. Dominick nods his agreement. It's now that the Judge asks the jurors if they need a break. Since no one raises their hand, the Judge would like to go on through to noon because it's a short testimony day. Drat! No break to go get some water.

All morning long, several groups of very young professionally dressed men and women with badge clips that say "EXTERN," have been ushered into the courtroom to take up the empty seats and listen to the trial. It's quite distracting. Later, I learn that an "extern" is just like an intern, but they specifically serve for a judge. Donna Clarkson is wearing a beautiful dark olive green suit. DiMaio testifies that in his career, he has performed 9,000 autopsies himself and supervised over 30,000 autopsies performed by doctors working under his supervision. Juror #6 closes his eyes.

Now DiMaio testifies to the number of suicides he's reviewed, and AJ is on top of it quickly taking notes. DiMaio was approached 16 months ago to work on the case. Now, he's talking about the cases he's testified in, several times for the prosecution. Two of the cases are located here in Los Angeles. Plourd makes a point to get Dr. DiMaio to say that he charges the same rate to the City of Alhambra and Los Angeles, as what he's charging in this case.

DiMaio testifies about experimentation that he did in Dallas, TX, with gunshot wounds. He testifies about gunshot residue, and if there's a lot of it, that's solid evidence that someone fired a gun. He goes into great detail that the type of ammunition does make a difference, as to blood spatter and how far it can travel.

DiMaio is facially expressive when he talks about there being "only one particle of GSR" on someone's hands. He almost rolls his eyes, as he leans back saying, "one particle is meaningless." More questions about the gasses exploding out of the mouth and propelling blood farther because of the type of wound and bullets. He says, "Size and velocity makes a particle go farther." Lots of talk about micro verses macro and I wonder if the jury is really following this.

It's getting close to 12 noon, and it's clear Plourd wants to get DiMaio to testify to a manner of death before he gets off the stand. And then it comes. Plourd gets his questions in. DiMaio believes Lana held the gun.

A: Suicide is the hardest case type for the pathologist because people don't want to accept it.

His facial expressions are playing to the jury. "Intra-oral GS wounds are 99% suicide," he testifies, going onto quote a statistic, "Seventy-five percent of people (suicides) don't write notes. (snip) Suicide is, many times, impulsive." Dr. DiMaio gives examples of impulsive acts where people do commit suicide in front of other people, but each example he gives is not even remotely similar to Lana's death. "And then there was the alcohol," he adds. With a voice a virtually whisper to the jury, as if he is trying to give the sad conclusion of suicide gently to them, he says, "When you take in everything, the Vicodin... (snip), it's suicide."

And testimony rests for the day.

Some of the reporters were stunned at the power DiMaio appeared to command when he delivered his conclusions. I'm holding out hope for AJ to blast some holes in that self assured exterior.

Outside the courtroom Rochelle Spector, very excitedly talking on the phone with someone, was virtually gleeful with Dr. DiMaio's testimony. The smear of Lana Clarkson, had begun.

There will be more on this day's testimony when I get around to transcribing todays detailed Trial Notes.