Contentious Cross-Examination for Simpson Pathologist
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The famed pathologist paced before the jury box, gestured with a magnifying glass and expounded on the methodology of murder at the O.J. Simpson trial Friday, refusing to budge from his views under combative cross-examination.
``Murder and struggles are not logical,″ Dr. Michael Baden told prosecutor Brian Kelberg at one point. ``If they were logical, there would be fewer of them.″
Kelberg suggested that Baden’s conclusions _ that the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman occurred in a ferocious struggle _ were illogical when compared to a conflicting scenario outlined by the Los Angeles County coroner.
But the New York pathologist, testifying for Simpson’s defense, suggested the prosecution purposely produced ``a visual image _ an awful image″ of Ms. Simpson having her head yanked back and her throat slit while she lay unconscious on the ground. That image, he said, was just plain wrong.
``The blood on the step doesn’t match,″ Baden said. ``In my opinion, when the last cut was given, she was higher up and was conscious.″
Similarly, he said, small cuts on Goldman’s neck were not ``control wounds″ left early in the attack but were inflicted later by a killer checking to see if the victim was dead.
As Kelberg pressed Baden to reconstruct the murders again and again, the witness sighed in exasperation and suggested that no one can ever say with absolute certainty when wounds were inflicted or why certain amounts of food were present in the victims’ stomachs.
``Human beings are not able to be studied like worms,″ Baden told jurors. ``We can’t do controlled studies of feeding people and then killing them. We can’t do controlled studies of cutting people’s necks.″
In the trial’s most spirited confrontation, Kelberg challenged Baden in strident tones that drew a reprimand from the judge
``The jury is only 6 feet away. They can hear you, Mr. Kelberg,″ Superior Court Judge Lance Ito interjected.
Baden more often responded with wry humor.
When Kelberg suggested that no human being could eat enough food to coincide with Baden’s theory of Ms. Simpson’s stomach contents, the doctor smiled and replied, ``You don’t have grown children.″
Jurors and members of the courtroom audience laughed.
When Kelberg interrupted the witness in mid-sentence, the judge ordered the prosecutor to let Baden finish. Baden, picking up his sentence without a breath, said, ``Comma,″ then continued, drawing more laughter.
``He likes to use disarming humor and he communicates with jurors on a very folksy level,″ Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said.
Baden, who has a mass of gray hair, mustache and glasses, often turned to jurors when he spoke.
When Kelberg brought out the grisly autopsy pictures that upset some jurors early in the trial, Baden produced his magnifying glass. He paced in front of the pictures, examining stab wounds, explaining his theories and denouncing one prosecution idea as ``silly.″
He was referring to the coroner’s claim that Goldman did not bruise his knuckles fighting off his assailant, but rather bashed them on a tree while flailing about.
``If a person is trying to defend himself he may do a lot of things,″ Baden said. Throwing a punch, the expert said, was more likely than hitting a tree.
Although Baden’s testimony conflicted, at times sharply, with the testimony of the county corner, he drew gasps when he offered an unexpected testimonial to the work of Dr. Irwin Golden, the much maligned medical examiner who did the autopsies but didn’t testify at trial.
``I don’t want to trash Dr. Golden,″ Baden said. ``Dr. Golden did a fine job as far as I’m concerned. His autopsy is better than most autopsies and better than the autopsy of President Kennedy.″
Baden, a member of the commission which re-examined the autopsies of Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has been a vocal critic of the Kennedy autopsy and is an activist for national reform in such procedures.
He said Golden indeed made mistakes, ``but that doesn’t mean everything he did was wrong.″
In redirect examination, defense attorney Robert Shapiro asked Baden if, in more than 30 years of practice, he had ever seen a case where the medical examiner who did the autopsies was available but did not testify.
``I can’t think of any,″ Baden replied.
The defense has sought to imply that prosecutors hid Golden from jurors because his work was embarrassing to them. Kelberg tried to suggest that Shapiro could have called Golden as a witness, but the judge sustained an objection to the question.
Baden, who has been paid more than $100,000 for his work on the case, ironically had just concluded work for the district attorney’s office in another unusual murder case down the hall. Kelberg tried to paint Baden as a publicity hound looking for more business; Baden countered that he would have preferred to remain behind the scenes and not testify.
He conceded a few points to Kelberg but ultimately held to his basic conclusions that:
_Ms. Simpson’s stomach contents indicated a time of death later than 10:15 p.m. June 12, 1994, the time approximated by the prosecution. He conceded that no pathologist could give an exact time.
_The victims struggled with their killer or killers, sustaining defensive wounds on their hands.
_The victims could have taken as long as 20 minutes to bleed to death after they were stabbed. ``Stab wounds don’t cause death; bleeding causes death,″ he said.
_Goldman’s bruised knuckles indicated he struck his assailant. But he conceded some people who are punched don’t sustain visible wounds. Simpson’s body wasn’t bruised when he was examined a day after the killings. He maintains he was not the killer.
With the witness due at a medical conference and the judge noting that jurors were losing patience with Kelberg’s protracted examination, Ito hurried the prosecutor to finish his inquiry. Baden was excused from the witness stand when court recessed at midday.