The Staircase (2004) s01e05 Episode Script

A Weak Case

1 [theme music plays] [woman] The time was 2:40:54 a.
m.
OK, and if you would, please, go ahead and describe to the jury what you did as it related to the call that you received at that time.
I answered a call, a 911 call from a man who stated that there was an accident at his house, and I asked him, "What kind of accident?" He said his wife had fallen down some steps.
I asked him at that time if she was breathing, and he said yes.
I then asked him how many steps she fell down, and he said, "I don't know" and I asked him again, and he said 15 or 20.
And he was doing some crying and stuff in the background, and then I asked him again, "Sir, is she still breathing?" And he said "Yes," and then he eventually disconnected.
OK.
I take it over the course of five years, - you've answered lots of 911 calls.
- Yes, sir.
And heard lots of different people asking for help.
Yes.
And heard people who call up calm, and people who call up excited, - everything in between.
- Yes.
And the way you described Mr.
Peterson on that tape - [Jim Hardin] Objection.
- was [judge] Overruled.
Was as hysterical, right? Very upset, yes.
- Well, you actually said "hysterical.
" - Hysterical.
Indeed, that's what you put on that CAD form.
Yes, sir.
Because that's how he struck you? - Yes.
- That's all I have.
Thank you, ma'am.
You had no way of knowing whether he was feigning all those actions and noises on his end of the phone call, do you? - No, sir.
- No other questions.
[tape recorder clicks] [recording] Durham 911, what's your emergency? - [Michael] 1810 Cedar Street, please! - [call handler] What's wrong? [Michael] My wife's had an accident.
She's still breathing.
- What kind of accident? - She fell down the stairs.
- She's still breathing.
Please come.
- Is she conscious? - What? - Is she conscious? No, she's not conscious.
Please! - OK, how many stairs did she fall down? - What? Huh? - How many stairs? - The back stairs! - How many stairs? - [frantic panting] - Calm down, sir.
Calm down.
- Oh 15, 20, I don't know.
Please! Get somebody here right away.
OK, somebody's dispatching the ambulance while I ask you questions.
It's in Forest Hills, OK? - Please, please! - Sir! Sir, somebody else is dispatching the ambulance.
OK, is she awake now? Hello? Hello? [panicked breathing, whimpering] [phone line goes dead] [call handler] Durham 911, what is your emergency? [Michael] Where are they? 1810 Cedar.
She's not breathing.
Please! Would you hurry up? Sir, calm down.
They're on the way.
Can you tell me for sure she's not breathing? - Sir? Hello? Hello? - [phone line goes dead] Damn.
[tape recording stops] [lawyer] Now, we hear the dial tone, and I think we showed that in the transcripts, from two occasions.
What does that mean? [witness] It would mean that the call was terminated.
- On which side? - It would be on the caller's side.
OK.
Your Honor, I have no other questions.
[classical music plays] [exhales slowly] [music stops] This is the other piece I wanted to play at the - at the funeral.
This is - [somber classical music plays] It's just a wonderful piece of music.
"Invitation to the Dance.
" [door opens] Everything Margaret, Martha you guys everybody involved, it's just awful.
Awful.
As if the death wasn't enough, and all the rest of it.
But that's when I channel it into other things.
Yeah, distract yourself, and you're always doing things, busy.
Yes.
A great deal of selfishness and ego goes away with age.
You can't help it, you know? You watch yourself get old, and ugly, and fat, and stupid.
You know the ego declines.
It should, anyway.
And so you worry more about other things, other people, those you love.
The dogs.
[chuckles] I'm mostly just worried about, you know, your - how you're doing, you know? - Alright.
And, you know, mostly just coping with everything.
I cope pretty well.
Where's my lighter? I think I Yeah, well, you haven't got any choice.
It's one of those things.
And that's what I've always believed: can't do anything about it, why worry about it? Which is, you know, pretty much how Kathleen felt, and what we're trying to get Becky to feel.
- Hey, if you can't do anything - Can't do a fucking thing about it.
Fuck it, don't worry about it.
You know, you can't change anything.
It's like worrying about you know, anything.
Gee, we worry about dying.
- Well, don't, because you're gonna die.
- You're going to die.
So what's the point in thinking about it? I think I cope pretty well with it.
You gonna be alright? Yes, I'm going to be fine.
Thank you very much.
Don't worry.
Jesus.
I love you, Dad.
The more you worry about me, the more worried I get.
Stop it.
- Well, you know - Let me worry about you.
God! [chuckles] Hm! [witness] These appear to be the shorts that Mr.
Peterson had on.
[Jim Hardin] Look at the front and the back and [witness] Yes, sir.
Now at this point, we move into evidence what's marked "State's Exhibit 4A.
" The victim was was dressed in in sweats.
She had on a sweatshirt and sweatpants.
I observed that, again, what appeared to be large quantities of blood all over the floor, all over the victim.
Her hands, feet, her clothing, the walls.
There were paper towels around the body, and there was a towel under her head.
What was the condition of the blood on the floor? - It was dry.
- OK.
Could you tell what the condition of the blood was on the stairs? It was dry.
What was the condition of the blood on the walls in the stairway, - if you could see that? - It appeared to be dry.
- Alright.
- It appeared to be wiped or smeared.
The first thing that came to me, with the amount of training I've had, that this, from what I observed in the stairwell, this did not appear to be what I would have considered a fall down the steps.
Mr.
George, I want you to come down.
I don't want you to narrate anything.
I just want you to look at the video tape.
You actually made the video tape? Yes, this is a copy of the video tape that I made the evening of the 9th.
See you.
Well, let me talk about that issue a little bit.
You have all this testimony from these officers, saying that the blood appeared dry.
None of them touched the blood themselves.
They said it appeared dry.
Yet, on cross-examination, they all agreed that they didn't put any of that in the report.
What we really need, though, in this case are the experts to tell us how long does it take for blood to dry? How long does it take for it to dry on plaster? How long does it take for it to dry on wood, and how long does it take for a pool of blood, versus a spatter of blood, versus a cast-off stain, these are all OK.
You know, when I look at what we can get out of George, it seems to me that whatever I can do to establish that there have been changes in the scene, wherever they are, changes in the blood, changes in things that have blood on them, once we do that, then it's not a very big jump to the fact that nothing in that stairway can be relied upon.
And there's a great quote from Epstein's blood spatter Actually, it's from the North Carolina Justice Academy Blood Stain Blood Spatter Interpretation Manual.
"It is vital that the crime scene be preserved in absolutely its original condition, whenever any blood stain pattern interpretation is to be done.
Even the movement of a single blood-stained object in the scene can significantly affect the interpretation of the spatter patterns.
" And then I thought I'd get into some of these photos, you know, and that's where we get into The photos, where there's differences between what's there, - not the direction of blood spatters.
- No, not the direction of blood spatters.
Well, we know that it happened We know the pictures were taken by the 10th.
And some of them were taken on the 9th, - because they have the date on them.
- Right.
So, for example, the We got the photo next to the oven, and there's two things changed about that.
A drop disappears, another drop is added.
Right.
You know what I love, is that these two pictures don't have any date on them.
- They have no date.
- Right.
So when were these taken? I mean, that's what we'll start with.
This is a picture right here, of the area by the sink, right? And can we go to the next photo? That's a close up of the same area, is it not? Yes, it is.
Alright, now, what we have here is a side-by-side comparison of those two areas.
- You see that? - I do.
You see that little spot right there? Yes, sir, I do.
It's not there, is it? No, it isn't.
Do you know why? During our processing, if you also notice, right in the center of the picture on the right, there's a there's a little stain there, also.
- That one? - Yes, sir.
- And that's missing on there.
- Right.
So on each photo, you have a stain that's not on the other photo.
I was explained that when these photos were processed, that that was part of a photo glitch, there in the center.
- Photo glitch? - That was in the processing.
Something happened in the processing.
- So that's not really a blood stain there? - No, sir, it isn't.
How would someone looking at that know that? - They wouldn't.
- Did you note it anywhere? No, sir.
And that's a glitch, too? I don't really know.
- Well, you don't seem to - I did not process those pictures.
Well, how do you know this is a glitch, then? - I was explained that later on.
- Who explained that to you? I don't really recall who do did it right now.
Do you know how many glitches there are in the photos? No, sir.
That's the only two that I've observed.
Ron found a number of photos where there are really small differences, but very significant differences, between two photos taken of the same object by the police at a time when Michael Peterson was in a den somewhere under police watch, or else out of the house.
Their experts look at things like this, these things with numbers here, and they say, "Oh, well, you see, that's a skeletonized blood stain.
That means that someone tried to clean up this area, and what happened was, the blood stain was very dry on the outer ring, 'cause that's where it dries first, and much less dry in the middle, and so, when someone came through and tried to clean it, all they wiped up was the middle.
" Well, then, when you go back to another photo and both of these are taken on 12/9, the same day, and you look at these same blood stains, they're completely filled in.
And so to the extent their expert is saying, "Oh, there was clean-up here," well, if there was clean-up, it was cleaned up by the police, not by Michael Peterson.
And, you know, that's the kind of thing I think, that really creates questions in the minds of the jurors.
I mean, you know, would you want to bet your own life on the competence of Dan George and the Durham crime scene investigators? Because if you wouldn't want to bet your own life on them, then don't bet Michael Peterson's life.
[Rudolf] See that area right there? - Yes, sir.
- OK, let's blow that up.
- That's that area, right? - It appears to be, yes, sir.
And you see, there's a skeletonized series of blood stains? I see that.
Yes, sir.
Alright, let's take a look at another photo of that same step.
Now, if we look at the area here and compare it with the area here, there are some differences, aren't there? - It is.
- For example, that one right there is skeletonized.
That one right there is full.
That's partially Hold on, Tom.
That's partially skeletonized, and that's full, right? Yes, sir.
And the police took both of these photos, right? That's correct.
Mr.
Peterson wasn't in the stairway doing anything in between the taking of these photos, right? - No.
- Do you know which photo was taken first? I do not.
Well, do you have an explanation for why they're different? No.
I don't have an explanation for it.
Are you thinking that that's a glitch? No, sir.
This is contamination in the crime scene, right? And there you see Rudolph continuing his attack on the witness, who is basically helping the State support the integrity of that crime scene.
[anchor] Do you have a question about the crime scene? [woman] I did.
I'm still bothered by the fact that there were footprints, I believe, in the kitchen, and they had been cleaned up.
The blood had been cleaned up, and I still have not seen an explanation of when they were cleaned and why they were cleaned.
[anchor] Jean, before we go to break, I wanna ask you another question.
Are you telling me - that bloody footprints - What? were cleaned up before the police arrived? I think we have to assume at this point.
Now, the prosecution is going to say they were cleaned up, but the defense is going to say the defendant was hysterical [phone dialling beeps] and was walking in circles everywhere he went, and as you keep walking, the blood on your feet is going to become fainter and fainter pretty soon it's not gonna be Well, forget about Nancy.
I mean, Jean is at least supposed to be correcting things.
Who the fuck has Wait.
Who has said that anyone washed the floor in the kitchen? If you washed the floor, there wouldn't be any luminol footprints.
Is she an idiot? She says, "Oh, yeah, well, we'll just have to wait and see.
That's what it sounds like.
" No, no.
Because there wasn't any wipe marks.
Or swipe marks.
And the mop was tested And the mop was tested, and there was no blood.
I mean, come on.
You know I mean, she's saying stuff there that I mean, it's just I understand, you know, you wanna pump the ratings or whatever, but give me a break.
And I'm not fussing at you.
I understand you didn't have anything to do with it, but It's just, you know, it's just really if you all are supposed to be informing the public about what's going on she ought to have her ass fired.
I mean, it's just It's just awful.
It's one thing You sorta expect it from Nancy Grace, she's, you know But, you know, for the correspondent, who sat in the court I mean it's like she didn't see what happened today.
[cooker ignition switch clicks] [Margaret] I can't believe they were trying to say that Dad faked that 911 call.
- [Martha] That was the dumbest thing.
- Oh, my God.
[Martha] That was just dumb.
[Margaret] That was so stupid of Jim Hardin to just sit there and say that.
[Todd] Especially that day, with you crying right there.
I tried so hard not to cry, too.
It was horrible.
[Martha] When I'm starting to cry, and all of a sudden, you feel all the cameras on you.
- [Todd] I know, right? - [Margaret] I'm really lucky Well, no, but even Caitlin cried at the opening statement, when Rudolf played the 911 tapes, and Caitlin just wasn't there the day that Hardin No, she wasn't there.
She probably would have been crying too.
[Martha] Did she cry in the opening statement? Yeah, she cried in the opening statement.
Well, I mean, do you think it was because it was an indignation Is that the right word? Indignant crying or whatever? Or was it like she really felt the 911 [Todd] I'm not sure.
It's a terrible situation for everybody.
- I'm sure everyone's tears were real.
- [Martha] That's what I thought.
You know, if you do it a tad second too long, you lose the perfection of my special recipe.
- Is that right? - Yeah.
- Will you drink cranberry juice or - [Bill] Yeah, cranberry juice.
- Wine? - No.
- No.
- No wine, OK.
You gonna drink a little champagne to toast yourself? - I might have half a glass.
Sure.
- OK.
Alright.
And this is, of course, to Bill, - and there's a reason.
- For my birthday? Really? No.
Well, yes, but for other reasons, too.
And there's a lesson here, and it's for you guys.
Because I could not have gotten through this without my brother.
And I, of course, will be there for him soon, I suppose, when he's incontinent and slobbering.
But it is a wonderful lesson for you and your brother, and for you sisters, and your brothers.
It goes to La Famiglia.
- And to Bill.
- La Famiglia! Hey, Dad, when you're acquitted, are you gonna come down and visit me? - [Michael] I will come down right away.
- Yay.
Mm-hm.
Have you thought this through? Won't he be an embarrassment? [laughter] [Margaret] Only two more months, right? - October, all of September, August - [Todd] No, they're saying October now.
- [Margaret] What? - October now? [Todd] Spillover into October.
- [Margaret] Are you kidding me? - [Todd] That's what Court TV says.
[Bill] We talked about that last night.
We'll be here for Halloween.
We're gonna have Mike Peterson masks made up.
[laughter] Right.
- Good marketing opportunity.
- "Give me your candy or I'll shove you!" - Right? - [Michael] This is a blow poke suit.
Yeah.
[laughter] - [Margaret] You got it, Todd? - Yeah.
- [Michael] No, wait, stop! - Stop.
Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop! We gotta go back.
Margaret, you can carry this.
That's so wrong.
Just wait for your next birthday, Dad.
[all sing] Happy birthday to you Happy birthday to you Happy birthday, dear Bill Happy birthday to you - [all] Yay! - [clapping] Now, are you able to say, or give this jury a minimum number of blows that you contend would have been inflicted to Miss Peterson, to cause what we see here? Yes.
On the night that I was at this scene, I gave Detective Holland a minimum of four blows that occurred to the victim.
The reason for that was, that I found three points of origin for impact.
That means that the source of blood, the back of the head, was struck three times.
I add one to that, because there needs to be at least one blow that occurs to start bleeding.
One of the points of origin is 19 inches up from step number 17, eight inches out from the east wall, and six inches out from the north wall.
[Jim Hardin] And at that point, would her face have been up or down? If the face were up, out here in space, and something impacted the head from the bottom, then the impact spatters are gonna go down on the floor and on the wall, low, below the head itself.
Therefore, the source of blood, the back of the head's gonna have to be up, and be impacted in space, such that the blood spatters can go up the walls and create the blood spatters that you see in Paragraph E.
[Hardin] You got cast-off outside on that header and on the west wall of the hallway.
Exactly how could that happen? It would be my opinion that this cast-off stain that created this, and this pattern on this wall, was created at or about the same time that the impact over step number 15 was created.
It's my opinion that the individual creating that was standing on the outside able to swing the weapon, and creating this cast-off stain.
My opinion is, that this is the scene of a beating, that this scene is not unlike many scenes that I have been to, and the spatters, the impact spatters, are like those consistent with beatings that I have seen in the past.
See, they're putting blood on a sponge, on top of a mannequin's head.
A lot of blood.
- [man] I think it's Deaver.
- [man 2] That may be Deaver.
Hard to tell.
All right.
[David Rudolf] There's a Styrofoam head now, with a sponge on it.
This is quite an impressive scientific method, don't you think? The first group of experiments is the elimination phase.
[Rudolf] Yes, exactly.
Saying she cannot be accidentally fall from two or three feet high.
Now you see how much blood spatter You actually see a fair amount along the base there.
[Rudolf] They actually prove that you get a fair amount of spatter low down.
And then, of course, there's a piece of skull that they pick up.
I'd love to hear the audio.
Do they have any audio for this film? Look, he says, "Give me another sponge! Here, let's put the sponge down on the floor.
" Look! So they put the sponge down on the floor.
"Now let's beat it some more!" [laughing] Watch.
One two - Oh! - Oh! Broke! Three, four, five, six, seven eight, nine.
And they still don't have the splatter the way they want it.
Hey, Tim.
These guys work late too, huh? [Rudolf] We all work late.
- How are you, friend? Good, good.
- Hey buddy, how you doing? - You too, man.
How you hanging up? - Just got here.
Good.
- Tom? - Hey! You have a good trip? Yeah, piece of cake.
Piece of cake.
- He worked from the end result backwards.
- Right.
- He wanted to recreate something.
- He looked at the pictures! So his goal was, "I need this end product" Right.
"What do I have to do to get there?" That's dead, polar opposite to good science.
Good science says, "We don't care what the end product is.
" It's all about developing, through data collection and conjecture, a good hypothesis, and whatever the outcome - it shows.
- It shows.
And then, when you do that, you need to say, "Is there any other hypothesis - or explanation that could've done this?" - Right.
"And if there is, I must also test that.
" [Palmbach] If Deaver should have done any experiment, that's one he should have tried to do.
The two points of origin are, he's trying to put it out in space, you know, and you just can't You can't - It's an area, it's not a point.
- It's an area, that's absolutely right.
When the area for one of them is two inches, and the other one is six, in a macroscopic view, it's on the wall.
- Right.
Right.
- It's right there.
You got the impacts to the back of the head.
- Right.
- How can you orientate that, so that it's two inches from there? Even if I take your head, and I physically hold it against there, physically hold it, you're still more than two inches.
[Rudolf] Stop it right there.
Now, how did you determine that you were gonna strike that source of blood from behind the stairway? I wanted to see what it would do from that side.
And why is that? Just simply as an observation.
So you'd rather see it from that side, than from the side you thought it happened from? Yes.
Alright, and I noticed that Can we go back for a second? OK, let's just replay that again.
Let's watch how high you go.
I noticed you go about that high, right? - That amount of force? - About that much.
Can we play it through? Like that.
Right? Stop it.
That's correct.
You realize that when somebody's trying to beat somebody to death, they're, generally speaking, they're not going like this, right, sir? Generally speaking, if somebody's trying to beat somebody to death, they're not going like that, right? That has nothing to do with these experiments.
I was simply producing an impact spatter.
Something hitting a source of blood, producing a pattern on the wall, so that I could go back and pull my strings.
Sir, my question is, was your theory here that Michael Peterson was standing somewhere outside the stairway leaning in - and doing swings like that? Yes or no? - No.
OK.
Let me ask you this: If somebody was hitting a source of blood right there, and they brought it back, where would the cast-off go? Again, there's many variables on that also.
If the weapon were swung, and not a full roundhouse swing, there probably wouldn't be a cast-off.
If the weapon had been cleaned in between swings, there wouldn't be a cast-off.
- Let me stop you there.
- Those types of things.
In other words, if somebody was beating somebody to death and they hit him once, then they took a towel and wiped down the weapon.
And then brought it back, then there wouldn't be cast-off.
- That's correct.
- Gotcha.
Given the number of The amount of blood in that stairway, and spatter getting on shorts, and you had spatter, even on your white protective suit.
I think we saw a picture of that yesterday, right? - On one of the experiments, yes.
- Right.
It would have been at least useful to see if there were any spatters on his shirt.
- That's correct.
- And your expertise indicates that you just couldn't do that because it was dark blue, right? Well, yes, that's correct.
Blood stain pattern analysis is a visual examination, and had there, you know, I would have looked for them or whatever, you know, to be cautious or whatever.
If I can't really see it, then I don't consider it for blood stain pattern analysis.
OK, well, of course you're aware, are you not, that there are other things you can do, non-destructive things you can do to enhance your ability to see spatter on a blue shirt, right? Um no.
Well, you've read Mr.
Epstein's report, have you not? Yes, I have.
Does he not indicate, "Further testing of the shirt by alternate light sources, chemical, or photographic techniques may be warranted to further categorize characterize, this blood staining"? - That is correct.
- So, let me ask you the question again.
There are techniques available to people who are trained in this field, who are experts in this field, to enhance one's ability to see spatter on a blue shirt, correct? Some people do use those, that's correct.
Actually, after that report came and suggested that we might do that, then that shirt was taken to the laboratory, and somebody who, we were there, somebody was there, Susie Barker, who had experience with that, more experience than I had, and we took a look at that.
We didn't find anything with that, but it really doesn't go anymore to that.
I didn't see blood spatter on it, so that's what I reported.
Well, hold on a second.
Did you write a report about that Luma-Lite test? Yes, I think so.
Yes.
- You did? - Yes.
Did you give it to the District Attorney? - Yes.
- May we approach, Your Honor? That's big.
That's really fucking big.
- Yep.
- That's really big.
The fact that they ran a Luma-Lite and didn't find anything.
In some jurisdictions, they'd strike his testimony - for this kind of misconduct Oh, I know.
- [indistinct] What's most amazing about the shorts experiment is he admits he struck a location that didn't exist.
- Right.
- With a random amount of force and a random amount of blood to try to produce a stain.
Right.
So he knows that he can produce that stain in a scenario that he knows did not exist.
Right.
Right.
That's exactly right.
Make a note of that for closing.
You know that under the Constitution, a defendant is entitled to any evidence that may tend to exculpate him.
- You're aware of that, are you not? - Yes, I am.
And that the District Attorney is under a constitutional obligation to turn over such evidence to the defendant.
- You're aware that? - Yes, I am.
And did you provide a copy of this report to the District Attorney, so that he could give it to us? As far as I remember, I did.
Well, how do you generally deliver reports to the DA? Soon as their copies come to me, then I make a hand delivery of them.
So you would have hand delivered this? - Yes.
- To Mr.
Hardin? Yes.
Do you recall having a conversation with him about handing him this report? No, I don't.
- Or Miss Black? - No, I don't.
You're certainly not suggesting that if they got this report, they wouldn't have turned it over to me? I'm making no suggestion.
You recall telling him that there were no spatters that you could see on Michael Peterson's shirt? I don't.
Did you think they just didn't need to know that? My answer was I don't recall telling him.
OK.
[clerk] Mr.
Rudolf, we probably ought to stop.
Yes, sir.
[judge] Members of the jury, we'll take our afternoon recess.
Remember the instructions I've given you throughout the course of this trial.
- He's fucking chopped liver.
- We'll see you tomorrow morning at 9:30.
The other thing that we saw today, that was pretty remarkable, was a report prepared by the SBI agent, Mr.
Deaver, in which he was supposed to be checking using a Luma-Lite, I think it's called, to check for blood spatter evidence on Michael Peterson's shirt.
He prepared, it turns out, a report on that work that he did, but that report had not come forward.
[news anchor] My question is, were there blood transfers or smears? Or was that shirt totally clean? [reporter] That is unclear, although the evidence today seems to suggest that there was nothing.
[anchor] Seems to me, he changed shirts.
[reporter] I wonder if it wasn't another shirt as well, but that hasn't yet I think we're gonna pursue that some more tomorrow in Court, but, you know Sometimes I think they're watching a different trial.
testimony today was about the fact that he was looking for visual blood spatter.
[indistinct conversation on television] - Is that a car key? - Yeah.
[indistinct conversation continues] Martha, what'd you get? Oh! [laughter] I'm looking for the poker to make sure I marked down everytime that a fireplace is shown.
[indistinct chatter on television] It's so frustrating to sit there in Court, and know the answers to things that Jim Hardin is, "Ooh, this" or "Ooh, there's blood there," or "Ooh, this," when you've lived it every day of your life, and you know exactly why it's there, and you can't say anything, and, you know, you have to just wait for the lawyers to get it in, and then it's not even considered fact because it's just hearsay, and it's so frustrating, so I know that I've been filming since 1994, I guess.
Yeah, Christmas in 1994, I've been filming our family, and so anything that can help, I'm gonna help.
In the picture that the DA has, it's lying horizontally, maybe, like, there? It's kind of cut off, and Clayton's standing here.
He's a freshman in college at Duke, and And Wilbur's a puppy and he's sitting right there where Wilbur is now.
But this is many years later, in 1999, and there's no blow poke to be seen.
So, and I mean, I don't even remember the blow poke being there, except when we first moved in the house.
So they're kind of stupid for using that.
This whole trial is pretty pointless, if you ask me.
[upbeat pop music plays on recording] [laughter] [Margaret] Mom, it's cute! Mom! Dr.
Radisch, do you have an opinion as to how these various injuries on Miss Peterson's face would have occurred? - Yes.
- What is that opinion? The injuries, for instance, of the right eyelid, the injuries, the abrasions, below the left eye, I would not expect those to occur as a result of falling against a flat, firm surface.
They are in areas that are normally protected by bones that stick out around them, so they wouldn't have contact with a flat surface.
[Hardin] Alright.
On the head, there were seven areas of laceration.
And again, these are Lacerations are tears.
And, in many of these lacerations, they were actually full thickness, or all the way through the scalp to the underlying skull.
It's not been pulled away, but at the autopsy, we could actually pull these pieces of tissue up as a flap, or this piece of tissue, for instance, in this particular wound, pulled up as a flap.
Now, with respect to the cumulative injuries, do you have an opinion as to whether they collectively are consistent with a fall down the steps? - Yes, I do.
- What is that opinion? In my opinion, all the injuries found on this body are not consistent with a fall down the stairs.
Let me ask you whether those are consistent with having been struck by something like what is marked here as State's Exhibit 72.
Yes, in my opinion, they could be.
In looking at the nature of the injuries that Kathleen Peterson had suffered, we decided that we were gonna go back at least ten years, and look at every beating death that had occurred in North Carolina, and see what the injuries were, because Kathleen Peterson had no skull fracture, She had no massive brain injuries.
Indeed, she had virtually no injuries to her brain at all.
She didn't even have any bruising on the brain.
And we went back, and we looked at in excess of 250 cases, which were all the cases involving beating deaths in North Carolina for the past decade.
And there was not a single case involving multiple blows to the head where there was not either skull fracture or massive injuries to the brain, or both.
And you didn't have that in this case.
Would it be fair to say that in cases involving beatings with blunt objects, where someone is really trying to kill somebody, that there are certain injuries that one generally tends to see? I don't really I think you would have to be more specific.
Alright.
May I approach? I wanna just put these up here, and obviously, you're not gonna be able to read these all, but I want you to just tell me if they appear to you to be, just from looking at them, a collection of all the autopsies involving blunt trauma to the head in North Carolina from 1991 to 2003.
[Hardin] Objection.
[judge] She can respond however she wants to.
Overruled.
I don't really think I can give you an accurate answer to your question.
- Alright.
- Not today.
Alright, well [laughter] Are you aware, Dr.
Radisch, that out of the 257 cases in North Carolina since 1991, there is not a single case where a person was beaten with an object such as this, whether it was metal or wood, or hollow, or not, not a single case documented where a person was beaten with an object like this in the head, where there was not skull fractures and massive brain injury? Are you aware that? I don't know that, because I haven't reviewed them.
And of course, Kathleen Peterson didn't have any skull fracture.
[Dr.
Radisch] No, she didn't.
Or any contusion on the brain.
- No.
- Or any edema.
No.
And she didn't have any broken bones in her hands.
- No.
- Or her ribs.
No.
And are you familiar with the case up in Nova Scotia? Similar set of circumstances, where a wife was found at the foot of the stairs, and husband, Clayton Johnson, was charged with murder? - I've heard of it.
- In that case, the forensic experts called by the prosecution, at trial, testified under oath, that they could determine that the injuries were inconsistent with a fall, and had to be from a beating.
Is that right? I don't know the details of the case.
I don't know what the injuries were.
Well, do you know that after serving some number of years in prison, a number of forensic pathologists, and people who study injury biomechanics, and various other experts were put together by the government of Canada to look into that case? I know that it was reviewed, and that a different decision or different determination was made.
And what was determined, was at the injuries that the initial State's forensic pathologist testified, you would not expect from a fall, in fact, had come from a fall, right? Yes.
That's all I have.
Thank you, Doctor.
[theme music plays]