Image 01 Image 03

Freddie Gray Trial: Famous Pathologist Vincent Di Maio terms death an accident

Freddie Gray Trial: Famous Pathologist Vincent Di Maio terms death an accident

“It’s just an accident,” he said, “and accidents happen.”

The defense has opened with a bang in the “Freddie Gray” trial of Police Officer William Porter, bringing to the stand as their first witness noted forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who is testifying that Gray’s death should have been ruled an accident, not a homicide.

As reported by Kalani Gordon at the Baltimore Sun:

Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a forensic pathologist and former chief medical examiner in San Antonio, said Gray’s injury was “so violent, it’s so high-energy,” that it would have immediately caused Gray to lose control of his body and his diaphragm, which is critical for breathing and speaking.

“This has all the appearances of a single catastrophic injury,” he said.

Gray could not have suffered his severe spinal cord, then, at the fourth stop of the van in which he was injured, when Porter found him on the floor of the van and Gray allegedly asked for help, said he couldn’t breathe and said he needed a medic.

The injury had essentially “cut off the head from the body” in a neurological sense, Di Maio testified. He said Gray’s spinal cord was 80 percent crushed.

“You had a head and a body and they were disconnected,” he said. “You aren’t feeling anything. You aren’t able to move. He was paralyzed. He was quadriplegic.”

Dr. Di Maio went on to characterize the injury as an “accident,” and not a “homicide”:

Di Maio said he believed Gray was injured between the fifth and sixth stops, and that his death was not a homicide as state medical examiner Dr. Carol Allan found, but an accident.

“It’s just an accident,” he said, “and accidents happen.”

On cross-examination by the prosecution, Dr. Di Maio was adamant that Gray would have been unable to speak after the injury (meaning that Gray could not have already suffered his injury at the stop at which he asked Porter for help):

[Prosecutor] Schatzow pointed out that Gray’s spinal cord was not 100 percent cut, and questioned whether Di Maio was sure that Gray would not have been able to speak at the fourth stop in which he talked with Porter.

“Impossible?” Schatzow asked.

“Yes sir,” Di Maio said.

“Completely impossible,” Schatzow asked.

“Yes, sir.”

This post will be updated as more details from the trial emerge.

Background on Di Maio

Those of you who followed our daily coverage of the George Zimmerman trial will recall that Dr. Di Maio testified on the behalf of the defense in that case as well, and provided compelling and pivotal expert testimony in that case: Noted Forensic Pathologist Says Zimmerman Story “Consistent” with Evidence, As Defense Case Nears End.  (The featured picture above is of Dr. Di Maio’s testifying at the Zimmerman trial.)

There Dr. Di Maio was the next to last witness before the defense rested, and Zimmerman would be unanimously acquitted by the jury after only a couple of hours of deliberations five days later.

How pivotal was Dr. Di Maio’s testimony in the Zimmerman case? So pivotal that after Zimmerman’s acquittal the SJW organization Change.Org launched a petition to have his medical license revoked: Revoke the Lic. of Dr Vincent Di Maio Medical Examiner for the Defense in the Zimmerman Case. That effort garnered a whopping 26, count ’em twenty-six, supporters, and is now closed.

So far it is reported that Dr. Di Maio is already directly contradicting the state’s medical experts, and that he is testifying that Gray’s death should have been ruled an accident, says Freddie Gray was injured between the fifth and sixth stops.

Here’s a bit of Dr. Di Maio’s testimony from the Zimmerman trial. You can see our original coverage of his testimony in that case and more video of Dr. Di Maio’s testimony at the link above.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
“Law of Self Defense, 2nd Ed.” /Seminars / Instructors Course / Seminar Slides / Twitter / Facebook / Youtube


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Dr. Di Maio is completely correct in stating that if Mr. Gray’s spinal cord had been severed (or nearly so), death would have been very quick thereafter — within a minute. Mr. Gray certainly would not have been speaking ten minutes later.

I am curious as to the legal logic of putting him on the stand early in the defense, whereas in the Zimmerman trial he was put on late as nearly the last defense witness. In the latter I could see it — his testimony clearly stuck in the minds of the jurors. Doesn’t the defense in the Gray case risk losing that emotional appeal if the good doctor goes first?

I am also unclear on one point of fact: between the fourth and sixth stops was there any other prisoner in the back of the van with Mr. Gray?

My thanks to Andrew for following this case and explaining it so well.

    Observer in reply to stevewhitemd. | December 9, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Primacy and recency. It is drilled into lawyers in trial ad classes. Jurors tend to remember best the things they hear first, and the things they hear last. It could be that the defense put the doctor on first so that the jurors would hear the rest of the defense case with his testimony in their minds. Whatever the lawyers’ strategy was, you can bet that they will remind the jurors of what he said, probably many times.

Well, he has gone out on a limb here and said it was impossible. If the prosecution can find even one example where it isn’t true, then they will discredit him.

    Char Char Binks in reply to Mr. Izz. | December 9, 2015 at 11:26 am

    We kind of need our spinal cords to function.

    Twanger in reply to Mr. Izz. | December 9, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Not really a testimony killer.
    Then he could argue that in the conflicting case it wasn’t really severed then, was it?

    Ragspierre in reply to Mr. Izz. | December 9, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    A Tale Of Two “Impossibles”

    It is one thing to volunteer during direct examination that it is impossible for Gray to have caused his own injury.

    It is a completely different thing to be pressed on cross if an injury would render life impossible. (If your heart is shredded by a bullet wound, can you answer a question asked 10 minutes later?)

    Some things are just true. Some things are highly questionable. Jurors know the difference, as a rule.

      TX-rifraph in reply to Ragspierre. | December 9, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Well said. One is a possibility (some walk away from a car accident while others die) and one is deterministic (a heart full of holes can’t pump blood). I think the physical impact due to the actual spinal cord damage can be determined but one must speculate regarding the damage that results from riding in the back of a van where there are many variables.

      Char Char Binks in reply to Ragspierre. | December 9, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      You’re right. The big difference between the two “nevers” is that the doctors are experts on the human body and its injuries, NOT experts on everything in the world that could possibly cause those injuries.

      alaskabob in reply to Ragspierre. | December 9, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      Tried to find out the level of the cervical injury, and hyperextension vs hyperflextion. It is one thing to have a pericardial sac filled with blood tamponade the bullet wound and permit circulation versus a high cervical injury that nails the nerves innervating the diaphragm. It is very tough to argue that the remaining 20% of the remaining connected cord is functional. However, in surviving high cervical injuries, difficulty with breathing can often occur requiring ventilatory assist until, hopefully, edema and hemorrhage subside and the residual cord injury permits. So the difficulty with breathing caught my attention.

        Char Char Binks in reply to alaskabob. | December 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

        “…difficulty with breathing caught my attention.” But it was seemingly imaginary, at the time. Freddie asked for a pump, but it’s doubtful he ever had a pump to be given, or was ever prescribed a pump. If he needed a pump, who would have the pump he needed, Gray, or one of the LEOs?

        Gremlin1974 in reply to alaskabob. | December 9, 2015 at 5:57 pm

        This should help answer some of your questions, it is an excerpt from the narrative portion of the autopsy. It is also from the Baltimore Sun who has been very good at their reporting thus far.

        Also, you have to remember that even though there was 20% remaining functional, that 20% would have been highly traumatized by the injury.

        What it is looking more and more like, is during stop 4 Porter helped gray onto the bench and then re-secured the van after loading the other prisoner. For some reason Gray decided to stand up, possibly the opiates and Pot in his system may have played a role. Gray stood up as Goodson accelerated to re-enter traffic, Gray lost his footing due to the acceleration and fell forward (i.e. towards the rear door of the van), with the shackles on Gray had no way to arrest his fall and his head hit the rear door, not only fracturing his vertebra but also dislocating them and causing the spinal cord to be “pinched”.

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Gremlin1974. | December 10, 2015 at 12:40 am

          It seems to me acceleration would make Freddie fall backward, not forward. Fast deceleration would make him fall forward, as would normal deceleration in the case of an impaired person.

          jdjohnson50 in reply to Gremlin1974. | December 10, 2015 at 12:25 pm

          Depends on which way Freddie was standing, no? If he was facing the rear of the van then acceleration would make him fall “forward” toward the rear.

      This is the trout in the milk scenario.

      Even if you can’t prove when the water was added, just having the trout is conclusive of watering down the milk.

Fox reporting the Officer Porter is on the stand, interesting.

This was the first case among the recent “police brutality” cases that I thought might be malfeasance by police, on the assumption that a death in custody, without explanation, is suspicious.

(I didn’t buy the “I can’t breathe” scenario, because I already knew that pictures showed the “chokehold” not to be a chokehold, and sometimes it is hard tell that someone is not lying. Police are no better than ordinary people, when it comes to diagnosing a heart attack.)

I did not imagine the explanation, until it came: Freddie Gray was well known to the individual police officers as one of those who are frequently arrested, and always makes a scene, and was known to fake injuries. He was acting true to form, jumping and banging around inside the van. And so, right now, it appears to me that the most likely explanation is that he played a stupid games, and won a stupid prize.

This is sad, and a waste of a human life, but without a lot more, it is not a crime by the police.

Steve whitemd The prisoner in the van was Donta Allen . He is going to be a defense witness. His story is quite interesting too . The judge had to order Mosby to turn him and his statement over to defense in Oct ( her discovery date was due June 26th ) . The same day ,he did the gag order HHMMM ????. That is why the Porters trial was delayed in Oct.

Doctors testimony would shed some doubt on the ” seizures ” statement from Dr Allan in the trip from stop 5 to 6 to explain the noises Donta heard. . It was also reported somewhere that Allan made a statement that really went against the seatbelt narrative . Do not remember where I read that .

    “…reported somewhere that Allan made a statement that really went against the seatbelt narrative …”

    I wonder if it could be “I wasn’t seat belted in either.”

No the seatbelt statement,and I wish I could remember where I read it ,was to the effect , She did not give the seatbelts a high priority in her determination of homicide . The article expresses surprise that she stated that. She may have been trying to deconstruct her own case . Maybe Mosby put the bite on her to gin up the autopsy and she is trying to throw a hint . She did leave a reference to accidental death in autopsy ( as reported) perhaps she was not entirely convinced.I get the feeling that Mosby is not someone you readily say no too. She did fire one of the old experienced prosecutors right in the middle of a robbery trial and her new lawyer blew it.It was reported that she fired older prosecutors by going in their offices and running the slicing motion with her hand across her throat.

Has there been any questions about the forensic Dr. who, after examining Gray, said it was not an accident? That was so speculative that I could not imagine any Dr. saying something like he did.

    Char Char Binks in reply to inspectorudy. | December 9, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    As with Drs. Rao and Bao in the Zimmerman case, there may be a reason Dr. Allen is only entrusted with patients who are already dead.

Inspectorudy I suspect that the ME s strings were being pulled by Mosby . Missy is being sued for wrongful discharge . It seems . as if 37 prosecutors out of about 120 have either left Or given the heaveho. I suspect she is a tyrant that people watch their cards with.

New post up, folks, covering defendant Officer Porter’s testimony.

There’ll be a funny post up later, as well, on “fun with Prosecutor Mosby!” 🙂

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

didn’t he also refute badens (iirc) findings in michael brown case?
I may be remembering wrong and cannot search it out right now

Serious question:
ME said Gray couldn’t have banged on the walls due to injury, so the other prisoner was mistaken, but that Gray could have had a seizure that would account for the sounds.

But Dr. Di Maio said the injury left Gray paraplegic.

So, can a seizure cause movement in a paraplegic? Is there an in-between where an injured person couldn’t move enough to bang on walls, but could move enough with a seizure that it would sound like that?

I usually don’t believe in conspiracy , theories , but I have seen one floated on other sites and I believe that may have been on to something , but wrong in who the culprit is . The belief that this was set up as a cash for crash set up . Now you would need a lawyer behind the scenes to grease the skids , they thought it was Mosby , not her style . Now Why are they taking so great of measures to keep Freddies medical history out .. Think , who represented Freddie , who had her girlfriend try to muddy the waters with Donta Allen interview., who told the police not to investigate his cash for crash schemes, who knew that Mosby had stepped up enforcement on that corner that Freddie gets arrested twice in two weeks ( was this first one the one Porter saw him kick out the window ) And who is helping Schatzow practically throw this away .Not saying any names! Makes me wonder ? What a great cover if it is . If that is the case Freddie should have gotten Workmens comp instead of settlement : Occupational injury

Mr Branca, a good Mosby story you should read :How a dog’s slit throat may affect Freddie Gray case: Daily Caller June 6th and see the shenanigans she pulled on her first day of office to help her buddy Billy Murphy . The fiasco included a medical professional (vet) who suddenly had a change of heart about a cause of death.It was reported in Sun .This is the ethical complaint eluded to by the police union in several Sun articles.She is a trip.

Sammy Finkelman | December 10, 2015 at 1:25 pm

I take it that the accident/homicide distinction has to do with whether or not there is any kind of criminal culpability, even passive, where someone did not do what was his legal duty.

So what? Something like this?

If someone runs a red light, it would be a homicide. The same incident where there was no light or STOP sign would be an accident. If someone had enough time to react or shold have know, again a homicide?