Medical Examiner presents graphic testimony, indicates Davis leaning away from fire when struck; State rests
This morning saw testimony from two FDLE evidence technicians, and more interestingly from the medical examiner who conducted Jordan Davis’ autopsy. She concluded it was most likely that Davis was leaning away from the source of gun fire when he was struck by three bullets, one mortally. After the medical examiner’s testimony, State Attorney Angela Corey informed the court that the State rested.
Sukain Warf, Biologist, FDLE
The first State’s witness of the morning was Sukain Warf, a biologist with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). State Assistant Attorney John Guy led the direct examination.
Warf was tasked for analyzing swabs taken from shell casings at the scene for DNA evidence. No DNA matches was possible. On cross Stolla sought to diminish the credibility of her testimony by suggesting that there additional types of DNA that could have been tested for but those tests were not done, by noting that Warf possessed an MA but no higher degree. Not much here, really.
Maria Pagan, firearms examiner, FDLE
Next up was Maria Pagan (pronounced “peh-GAHN”), a firearms examiner for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Angela Corey led on direct.
Corey had Pagan explain some firearms fundamentals, including the difference between revolvers and semi-automatics, the design of bullets, how semi-autos typically eject their rounds, and so forth.
She then moved on to some of the practical aspects of matching bullets to firearms, particularly with respect to complications that can arise if a bullet has been damaged in flight. Pagan noted that a bullet can readily be too damaged to allow matching, particular when there are only small fragments of lead or copper jacket.
Pagan also noted that even if the bullet recovered is pristine, some guns simply do not mark bullets very well upon firing. This, she noted was the case with Dunn’s Taurus pistol. Even full-metal jacket 9mm rounds followed into FDLE’s water tank–a pristine way of obtaining rifling marks on a bullet–failed to produce much useable marking on the bullets.
Bottom line, Pagan was unable to definitely match the bullets recovered from the scene or autopsy with the samples fired in her lab. She did note, however, that both the evidence and test bullets exhibited the six-groove, right-hand twist rifling found in the barrel of the Taurus.
Pagan also examined the four brass cases found under the windshield wipers of Dunn’s Volkswagen as well as the case found on the driver’s side floor of the car. These were matched successfully to the Taurus.
Pagan also displayed the Taurus pistol itself, as well as Dunn’s right-hand, inside the waistband holster, before the jury. Corey noted that the holster lacked any kind of retention device (another gun knowledge point for Corey, who also asked Pagan to clarify that the proper name for a “clip” was a “magazine”).
On cross, Strolla engaged in asking questions he almost certainly knew Pagan would not have the answers to, either because they were not relevant or not her job.
For example, he asked her about the manufacturer’s claimed trigger weight of the gun. Pagan indicated that she did not know, but in any case the manufacturer’s figure for trigger weight was typically incorrect, and in any case trigger weight can change through use, parts replacement, or other factors. Asked by Pagan if she had dismantled the gun to determine if it had been modified, Pagan said she had only field-stripped the pistol for safety inspection.
Strolla also noted that Pagan had told Corey the purpose of the safety on the pistol was to prevent an accidental shooting, and got snarky with her. “Isn’t it true, there’s no such thing as an accidental shooting, the technical term is negligent discharge?” Pagan shrugged it off.
Pagan did note on cross that she did not test fire the ammo found with the pistol, nor similar hollow-point ammo, but instead used full-metal jacket ammo to try to ensure a pristine bullet sample for testing.
Strolla did get into a strange area of questioning, asking if if different guns with different ammo might sound differently from each other when fired. This seemed a senseless line of questioning until Strolla asked if a shogun would sound different than a 9mm handgun when fired. Pagan indicated that it likely would.
The only potential purpose that comes to mind from this line of questioning is that the surveillance audio clearly indicates 10 rounds fired, but there are only 9 bullet strikes on the vehicle. Perhaps Strolla has a witness who will testify that one of the shouts sounded different from the others, and that this differently sounding shot was a shotgun blast fired from the SUV? Speculative, of course.
Lucia McBath was seen attending this portion of the trial.
Strolla also asked repeatedly whether bullets could make left or right turns, turn up or down, presumably he plans to impeach some of the forensics evidence on this basis.
On re-direct, Corey asked Pagan, Is there anything about defense counsel’s questions that would prevent this gun when pointed at someone and fired from killing them? No, Pagan replied.
Dr. Stacey Simons, Medical Examiner
The next witness was Dr. Stacey Simons, the Medical Examiner who conducted the autopsy of Jordan Davis. (Dr. Simons has since resigned her position with the ME’s office. Corey handled the direct examination of Dr. Simons.
Prior to Dr. Simons testimony and before the jury had returned to the court room following the mid-morning break, Judge Healey informed the court that some graphic testimony would be coming, and that if they did not feel they could prevent themselves from emotional outbursts they should excuse themselves from the court room.
Defendant Michael Dunn was attentive throughout Dr. Simon’s testimony.
There was indeed some graphic images shown, though many were clearly not broadcast out of the court room.
Perhaps the most informative image shown by Dr. Simons was the thoracic x-ray. This shows the entry point of the bullet by the yellow mark in the lower left-hand corner of the x-ray, and it’s resting point around Davis’ armpit by the circle in the upper left. The bullet track took the bullet through the diaphragm, through the liver, through the diaphragm again, through the right lung, between the heart and the spine where it cut the aorta, through the left lung, and to its final resting place.
Another key part of Dr. Simons testimony is where she used both her own person, standing before the jury, and a moveable mannikin with dowels illustrating the bullet impacts and tracks to show that Jordan Davis was almost certainly leaning away from the source of gun fire when struck by the bullets.
Corey also made use of the trajectory dowel evidence to further press this point.
The gunshot wounds to Davis’ legs were also discussed, but neither of these would have been fatal, and so received somewhat less attention except to further support the notion that Davis was likely leaning away from the gunfire when struck.
On cross, Strolla thought to suggest that perhaps Davis was climbing back into the vehicle when struck, claiming this could have yielded a similar wound track. Of course, there is no evidence Davis was ever out of the vehicle. Strolla was also pointedly offensive with Dr. Simons, even more than he usually is with State’s witnesses.
Following Dr. Simon’s cross-examination, Corey announced that the State rested it’s case.
Judge Healey announced the court in recess until 1:30PM US EST. When court resumes, it is presumed the defense will begin to present it’s side to the jury.
OK, that’s it for the mid-day, as I’m out of time. Back to live coverage of the trial:
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.DONATE
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