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Forensic Investigations

Below are some observations Dr. Miller pointed out.

"There are definite signs of trauma on the body, some of which (but not all) are described in Dr. Montas' autopsy report, and which are thoroughly consistent with his having been in a fight and have been beaten. These include injuries to the nose, orbits, hands, forearms, and elbows; this list is not complete."

"The lividity pattern strongly suggests that Mr. O'Connor died at one place, was in a position after death for several hours in which he was face down and his head and neck were dependent (perhaps sprawled on a sofa or chair), and then the body was moved out to where it was found lying in the parking lot face up."

"The autopsy report indicates that the brain was 1570 g, which is abnormally heavy, and had "flattened" gyri, which is a poor descriptive term for what must have been broad swollen gyri. There is no direct description to indicate that the brain did not have (or did have) herniations of either the unci or the cerebellar tonsils, only a statement that the brain was otherwise unremarkable. It is reasonable to suppose, however, that there were such herniations with a brain weight this great, and these may have been the immediate cause of death. Brain swelling to this degree can be the result of blunt head trauma, or of hypoxia or ischemia secondary to neck compression (strangulation). The brain edema is also apparent in the histologic slides of the brain."

"The ME, Dr. Josette Montas, described a small hemorrhage in the deep soft tissues of the neck, close to the thyroid cartilage. There is a histologic section of this, apparently produced after a request from Dr. Baden. The section shows acute hemorrhage without any organization or inflammatory reaction, indicating it occurred within hours (or less) of death. Such a deep injury is usually an indication of considerable trauma, as may occur with attempted strangulation with a liagature."

"One of the photographs of the neck region shows a linear mark horizontally across the neck suggestive of a ligature mark. This is not apparent in other photographs and does not appear to extend all the way across the neck, so that I am unsure of what this represents. Dr. Tagliamonti, who I gather is a Medical Examiner, unequivocally interpreted this as a ligature mark. There are a few petechial hemorrhages in the conjunctiva according to the ME's description, which are found in cases of strangulation, among other situations."

"It is likely that a proper reading of all the evidence in the autopsy would lead to the conclusion of at least two probable causes of death, one from a traumatic assault with a blunt head trauma and, possibly, partial or attempted strangulation, and the other ethanol intoxication."

"There are other aspects of the autopsy report, apart from the failure to faithfully record all of the evidence of trauma which is preserved in the photographs, which are surprising in that they indicate a less than through analysis and which cast further doubt on the conclusion that death was due solely or mainly to ethanol intoxication. For example, the toxicology report indicates that blood, bile, urine, stomach contents, brain, and liver were submitted for toxicologic study, but ethanol levels are reported only for brain and blood, and there is no report at all on the stomach contents."

"Dr. JosetteMontas consulted with the Deputy Chief ME, a Dr. Rho, prior to making her final determination. Perhaps it would be important to similarly interview or depose Dr. Rho."

"Nothing in the histology slides nor the autopsy findings indicate regurgitation of gastric contents - a finding consistent with lying on ones back prior to death and therby asphyxiating."

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