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10.24.2003

Reasonable Doubt - Part 7

If this wasn't so serious an issue, I'd probably laugh.

From the evidence found at the scene of Duran Bailey's murder, at least one "item" seemed like it was taken straight from an uninspired plotline and applied to a second-rate film. Those bloody footprints - especially the one leading away from the body - summon images of a Warner Bros. cartoon directed by Wes Craven. And it doesn't help that I saw copies of the photos myself.

Louise Renhard got to see those footprints, too. She was one of the investigators sent to the site to gather forensic evidence. She was also a witness for the prosecution.

One footprint, she testified, was actually on a cardboard box that was then thrown over the face of the victim. As she describes it (bold added by me):

Q (Defense counsel Kohn) And I also show you Defense Exhibit E, what is that?
A (Lousie Renhard) Okay. This is a cardboard box or piece of cardboard, I should -- that looked like it was probably originally a cardboard box. With a footwear impression in blood on the cardboard box. I didn't take this photo. I don't know who did.
Q Do you know where that cardboard was found?
A I believe it was on the -- over the torso, face portion of the victim.


Later she says she believes her associate Dan Ford took the picture. But it's hardly the point. This is a bloody footprint...not on the ground, but on the cardboard box that was thrown over Bailey's face. I think it is more than reasonable to say the murderer made that print while walking around in the blood, then threw the piece of cardboard along with the rest of the trash over Bailey's body afterwards. I mean, bloody footprints don't just make themselves. That would be downright creepy.

Joel Geller, a forensic expert in prints, tire tracks, and footwear working for the Metro Police, would confirm two testimonies later that the prints did not belong to the accused, Kirstin Lobato, who was later convicted of this murder despite the enormity of evidence that favored her innocence and complete lack of conclusive evidence to the contrary. The defense expert reported that the prints were not even close to her size (though his testimony on this matter was blocked by the prosecution). Geller also said the prints did not belong to Richard Shott, the man who found the body and called the police. And the officer on the scene makes it clear he secured the crime scene swiftly and well.

That's what's referred to as exclusionary evidence. Someone walking around in Bailey's blood made that print. Someone then threw that piece of cardboard over the victim's face. And that print does not belong to Kirstin Lobato.

Lousie Renhard also talked about testing for blood in Kirstin's car. Although initial tests found some sign of substances that could be blood, the confirmatory tests showed nothing. Basically, the Luminol (the glowing spray stuff) detects blood and some other common materials. A second and sometimes a third test is then used to determine if it is actually blood and not one of the other substances it could pick up. On no test did they ever determine that there was blood in Kirstin Lobato's car.

Of course, that picture of what looked like a hand swipe on the door was really nice. A cute touch, brought to you by the prosecutors. Maybe it was a hand swipe. But ultimately it didn't detect as blood either, no matter how intriguing a mark it was. I'm still betting it was a favorite picture of his, especially since he started his opening argument with it.

Anyhow, Lousie Renhard listed the things she took into evidence (looked at by Thomas Wahl, who I will be talking about next). She did very little in the way of comprehensive analysis...her job was mostly the collection of evidence. Fingerprints, tire tracks, chewing gum, and so on. Her largest role in analysis was running the preliminary and follow up blood tests, which found nothing. And the blood tests did not show anything on the aluminum bat found in the car, which is the weapon prosecutors say was used in the attack.

There was an interesting dance going on between the prosecution and defense about how to use the lack-of-blood evidence, and it really got surreal because both sides ended up talking about how tests could be unreliable (though each side did it for reasons that would help their case, of course). On the defense side, how effective the blood tests were and whether they could pick up false signals was a long topic of conversation. On the prosecution side it was more about how blood traces could be destroyed through washing or cleaning, thus destroying any potential blood samples. Either way, the final evidence was that no blood was found in Kirstin Lobato's car.

Of course, the prosecution claims that Kirstin Lobato or her parents did a good job cleaning the car.

Yeah, a great job. So good a job, in fact, that they left vomit under the front left seat. Enough vomit that Lousie Renhard knew exactly what it was the moment she saw it - no tests necessary. This supports what Kirstin Lobato said about her car being vandalized in a disgusting manner (defecation and other unpleasantries), which is why she said she didn't drive it for awhile. It does not support the prosecution's "crack cleaning job" theory.

Not like the defense team ever brought that up.

More to follow.


10.21.2003

Reasonable Doubt - Part 6

Today's piece is going to be part of a trend over the next couple of blogs, this time about the forensic experts the prosecution brought to the stand. These experts were the witnesses that were either there at the scene of Bailey's murder, or going over the evidence collected from there. What follows is going to be a basic summary of their testimony mixed with actual excerpts from the court transcripts.

I have to say, there's absolutely no need for me to do anything but basically present this, because there was nothing that connected Kirstin Lobato to the crime scene. That's the summary of all the expert witness testimonies. But just because I know its a cynical world out there, I'm also going to summarize the proscution's reaction to the lack of forensic evidence.

That is, there was nothing NOT connecting her to the crime scene, either. [cue the heavy drumbeat]

Okay, so it's a little more thought out than that, as you'll see below (that was only a summary, after all). Oh yeah, and the blog entitled "Reasonable Doubt - Part 3 " is more about this matter. Maybe I should have called this Part 3A or something.

Okay, so today I'm going to go over the forensic opinions formed by the guy who examined Bailey's body...

Lary Simms, Chief Medical Examiner, Clark County
Note to readers: the following list in italics is a specific account of the wounds described by Lary Simms, in the order he referred to them. This list can be considered gruesome, and so if you find such things distasteful, I strongly suggest you skip the following. Just be aware that it was a pretty brutal killing.

Stab wounds on the back left side of the neck
Scrapes and bruises on the left side of the face
Scrapes and bruises on the right side of the face
Bloody nose
Stab wound on the forehead
Stab wound in the left front of the neck (entering the cartoid artery)
Stab wound on the chin
Stab wound on the front of the neck
Scrapes and gouges around both eyes
Laceration of the lips
Multiple fractures on both upper and lower jaws
Wound on the left chest
Wounds on the left shoulder
Four stab wounds in the lower rib cage area
Scraping on the upper back
Multiple overlaying stab wounds to the anus
Stab wound to the scrotum
Severing of the penis at the base
Multiple wounds on the lower right arm and hand
Multiple wounds on the lower left arm and hand
Skull fractures
Six teeth knocked out, plus one partial


The prosecution said that Kirstin Lobato beat Bailey with a bat to cause the bludgeoning damage, since it is extremely unlikely a 18-year-old woman barely over 100 lbs could cause that sort of damage without the aid of a weapon. Simms, however, stated that "...he didn't have any skull fractures that were depressed like, you know, a bat would depress somebody." The prosecution calls on Kirstin's lack of physical strength as the answer to that, which Simms testified was possible.

Get that, ladies and gents? There's no evidence a bat was used...and the prosecution says: "Well, there's no saying she couldn't have used a bat?"

By that logic, there's no saying a sadistic band of aliens couldn't have zipped down from outer space and killed him, either. I mean, some of the wounds are sort of consistent with what you'd expect to see from aliens, you know, according to common knowledge about their method of probing.

Okay, maybe that was a bit uncalled for. I'm not really in the mood to be tactful, but perhaps I shouldn't talk about a dead rapist that way (see the September 26 blog entry for more on who he raped a few days before he was murdered...here's a hint: it wasn't Kirstin Lobato).

But back to the bludgeoning... Regarding the bleeding and fracture at the back of the head, which the prosecution says was caused by Kirstin Lobato beating him with a bat:

Q (Kohn): Is it more consistent with that concrete than say a baseball bat?
A (Simms): Yes.
Q: Because there are no indentions found in the head, is that correct?
A: That's correct.


If you do read (or have read) "Reasonable Doubt - Part 3" you'll see why blood spatter led at least one forensic expert to think no bat was used, but rather a downward pounding or punching motion. Of course, Kirstin had no wounds on her hands consistent with those that would be left behind if she had somehow been able to beat a man hard enough to fracture his skull with her fists. So the bat has to be the prosecution's answer, mostly because Kirstin had one in her car. They don't have another option, but the medical examiner clearly does not believe that the bludgeoning was caused by a bat, though again he admits it is within the realm of possibility.

There's also a discussion later between Simms and prosecutor Kephart about the fact that a 12-year-old would probably cause fracture indentations in someone's skull while beating them with a bat. The lawyers' questions don't delve that deeply into the issue of stab wounds, either, mostly because it was an aspect of the murder without a whole lot of confusion. The stab wounds were caused by, um, stabbing. Result: lots of blood, but nothing in particular pointing to Kirstin Lobato or anyone else.

But apart from that, there's something I think is more compelling and important that was brought up when defense counsel Kohn was asking Simms questions.

Q (Kohn): But as most of the homicides go that you've done, the four or 5,000, this was pretty brutal, wasn't it?
A (Simms): Oh, well out of the 4,000 autopsies I've done, I've probably done about 500 homicides, so I said that this is one of a group of about 12 that had this kind of repetitive injury associated with sexual mutilation.
Q: And brutality around the head and all that?
A: That was a prolonged attack.
Q: In any of these cases was a woman involved?
A: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q: You indicated that you -- in the literature that you've read about cases like this, do you know of any women being involved?
A: Not that I'm aware of. This type of case is traditionally a male on male case and it does, in the literature, have homosexual connotations to it and that's actually been the majority of the cases that I've dealt with personally. But I've never read about or been involved in a case where this kind of injury pattern was done by a female.


Well, how about that. Me either. I researched it. Several times. And I found a big fat wad of nothing. Well, I found a section called "Murder and Post-murder Activities" in this little study. But that just backs Simms up. If anyone can find a case history where a woman committed the sort of brutality on par with the list of injuries described above, let me know. I'll post it. But I don't think there's much to find out there. Why? Because women murderers kill in entirely different fashion that does not involve sustained brutality, nor by using brutality that is so sexually vicious and/or repetitive. It is completely outside of what is largely ingrained in cultural and social psychology.

The prosecution response to this is to ask (quote): "But that doesn't mean that a woman can't do this?"

And Simms agrees. And it doesn't mean that a woman couldn't have done it. And I refer you once again to our mysterious visitors from the planet Caligula. I would also remind you that it's proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not proven guilty with crap that is somewhere within the realm of reason.

More to follow.


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