Friday, October 29, 2010

Nine of 31 stab wounds were deadly: pathologist

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Online:

By Sue Yanagisawa

The forensic pathologist who conducted David Wayne Krick's autopsy told jurors yesterday that he couldn't say definitively where or exactly how the 50-year-old cab driver was positioned when he was fatally stabbed, but he believed it possible "many of the wounds" could have been inflicted while Krick was still inside his taxi.

Dr. David Dexter, who was director of Kingston's forensic pathology unit until his retirement in 2008, was testifying at the second-degree murder trial of Richard E. Smith, now in its third week in Kingston's Superior Court of Justice.

Smith, 34, has pleaded not guilty to the crime, committed on Father's Day, June 17, 2007.

Dexter told jurors the wounds he saw on Krick's body could have been inflicted by an assailant reaching forward from the back seat of the taxi. But, to account for the distribution of wounds on Krick's back, front and both sides, the doctor said the cab driver would have had to have been moving.

Dexter told jurors that Krick, who he described as a "fairly thin individual" at five-foot-10 and 128 pounds, died from the cumulative effects of "multiple stab wounds" that collapsed his lungs, pierced his heart and resulted in what Dexter described as significant hemorrhaging.

Under questioning by assistant Crown attorney Elisabeth Foxton, the doctor described 31 wounds on Krick's neck, right hand and torso, most of them in the cab driver's back and all but the two on his hand positioned above the level of his diaphragm. Dexter also disclosed that nine of those stab wounds, which penetrated deep into Krick's chest cavity, could have each been fatal on their own, entering between his ribs, through his back and through his chest.

He described the two wounds to Krick's right hand -- one in the back of his hand and the other on his palm below the thumb -- as defensive-type wounds, but later agreed under questioning by Smith's lawyer, Gregory Leslie, that the characterization was based purely on location. There was no way of knowing, he said, whether they actually resulted from an attempt by Krick to ward off his assailant.

Additionally, Dexter found evidence of bleeding at the base of Krick's brain and some swelling in the brain itself, which he had examined by a neuro-surgeon. He testified that the brain injury was "consistent with what's called a closed head injury," caused by some sort of impact. It wouldn't have been sufficient to kill him, the doctor told jurors, but it could have caused him to lose consciousness.

He couldn't determine exactly what caused the brain injury. Dexter said Krick's scalp and skull were intact with no obvious bruise site, leading him to suspect the impact may have been diffused over a large area. But "where the impact occurred I could not define, post-mortem."

Foxton asked him if it could have been caused by Krick falling and hitting his head. The doctor agreed that was plausible, but he didn't know.

What he could tell, he said, was that the stab wounds and the brain injury "all appeared to be fresh and concurrent," happening "more or less at the same time."

Toxicology found no alcohol or drugs in Krick's system when he died, Dexter told jurors, and had he not met with foul play that day, the doctor said his health was "quite reasonable."

Jurors also learned that Krick's assailant didn't take the time to search him. During the postmortem examination, hospital staff found six $20 bills and three $5 bills in one of his pants pockets and his wallet in another.

Dexter said he couldn't determine in what sequence Krick's wounds were inflicted. But there were multiple factors that would have contributed to his "rapid loss of consciousness," he said, including blood loss, the collapse of his lungs and a tear one of stab wounds had opened in his heart.

Jurors were told his blood vessels would have been compromised in their ability to deliver oxygen to his brain by all of those injuries.

Dexter, after examining Krick's wounds, said it was also "possible" that they were all caused by a single weapon, and if they were, he said, "it appears to be sharp, it appears to be thin bladed."

He estimated, based on the depth of penetration of the fatal wounds, that the blade involved was "in the order of 15 cm long" and about "1.2 cm wide."

It could have been longer, allowing for the possibility that the blade wasn't driven all the way in, he testified. Under questioning by defence lawyer Leslie, he conceded that factoring in chest compaction, the blade might have been slightly shorter. He didn't find any hilt marks to assist in that determination.

Dexter testified that none of the blades police brought to him for examination fit the parameters of the weapon that caused Krick's wounds, however.

Leslie suggested that 31 stab wounds is unusual and the doctor agreed "it is a lot of wounds," and more than he usually sees with a stabbing victim. But he was qualified in adopting the defence lawyer's characterization of the attack as "frenzied." Dexter responded: "Perhaps, yes," later elaborating that while "it is unusual to see this number of stabbing wounds," he couldn't comment on what else was going on during the attack.

Krick's wounds don't illuminate his assailant, according to Dexter. He told jurors, during questioning by Leslie, that it was impossible to tell how the knife was held, whether the assailant was right-or left-handed or how tall or heavy was the person wielding the knife.

Copyright © 2010 The Whig Standard

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