While George Barwood (Geebee) and I often bump heads over our interpretation and understanding of the evidence in this case, I admit he often gives me food for thought. I think in a very logical, linear fashion and that has served me well. I am fascinated though, by the thought processes of people who think outside that path, and am generally open to hitching a ride on that road less traveled to see for myself if their view holds up to scrutiny.
George has posed two questions to me: 1. Do I think Dr. Horn lied (and perjured himself in the process) and 2. Was the gunshot first or last. I have now done the requisite research by re-watching all three times Dr. Horn took the stand.
The short answers are:
1. No, Dr. Horn did not lie. I believe there was a typo on the report
2. I believe the gunshot was not first, based primarily on Horn's testimony of what one could expect from a person shot with a bullet of that caliber, in that part of his forehead and what could be expected from anyone with that type of injury.
The lie George (and many Jodi followers ) believe is that during the surrebuttal a juror asked the question "If the dura mater was intact, how could the bullet have entered the brain" as Horn testified had to have happened. Horn then consulted the notes and claimed that there was a "typo" and the correct verbiage should have been "the dura mater was NOT intact". His claim that this was a typo, is one of the lies, and the other being that Detective Flores has testified at some point that Horn told him the gun shot was first, and now Horn claimed it was last. I'll tackle the issue of the Flores "lie" first.
Jennifer Willmott brought up on cross that Flores had claimed that Horn told him that he determined the gun shot was first. Horn denied he said anything like that to Flores, stating that it was not consistent with the evidence. Willmott drilled him on this point, over and over, and Horn remained adamant: that he not only couldn't recall speaking to Flores after the autopsy on June 12, 2008, but he would not have reported the gun shot being first.
So, what happened? How did Flores get the story that the gun shot was first? I feel confident he didn't get that information from Horn. Horn claims the report was completed on July 15, 2008, and in those 4 weeks since the autopsy he had examined the deceased, had gone over the crime scene report/photos, spoke to the crime scene investigators and had reviewed the toxicology and other reports associated with the autopsy. It was only then that he could render his final opinion, based on all that evidence. His office, not Horn personally, then sent the resulting report to the Mesa police department.
Detective Flores is not a medical doctor. He is a police crime scene investigator. He may have formulated a conclusion as to the order of events based on his knowledge of the crime scene, believing the gun shot was first. He may have then spoke to one of the forensic technicians who were assisting in the autopsy, and either mis-heard what the technician reported, or the technician mis-stated the order. Hell, he may have spoke to Horn, and mis-heard/mis-understood, and because it confirmed his own understanding, didn't give it a second thought.
I find no fault with Horn not remembering every person he spoke to or every conversation he had 5 years ago. Maricopa County has one of the heaviest case loads in the country in terms of autopsies. The recommended number of autopsies per medical examiner, per year is suppose to be 250, and should never go beyond 325. In Maricopa County, the case load is 400 or more. Horn claimed he worked for the County for 12 years and had performed in excess of 6000 autopsies (500 per year).
So, I think the mis-communication or mis-understanding was on Flores and not Horn. That doesn't make it any better in terms of reporting facts, but Horn wasn't lying. Of course, this is all speculative, but I'm basing it on giving them the benefit of a doubt, just as others give a wide latitude with that same benefit of a doubt with Jodi.
Throughout his testimony, Horn consistently stated that the gunshot injury Travis suffered to his head would have been immediately incapacitating and would have rendered Travis unable to function in any appreciable way. He would be unable to crawl upon the floor, unable to lift his body to the sink, unable to stand in front of the mirror, unable to attack Jodi, unable to verbalize and unable to defend himself. Furthermore, while the injury wouldn't have been immediately fatal, it would have proven fatal without treatment. He also stated that if Travis had been alive when he was shot, he might have had seizures. Under no circumstances, if he was conscious, would he be able to do higher level functions (crawl, stand, fight).
Horn described the injury as a small hole through the right frontal bone. When the bullet exited the frontal bone, it left behind a substantially larger 'blowout' on the interior of the frontal bone. The blowout is common whenever a bullet travels through a solid object—the point of entry is roughly the size of the bullet, but the point of exit blow out a much larger chunk, partly because of the force of impact, and partly because of the way the bullet tumbles out of the hole.
One of the guys on my forum posted a great set of videos by poboyspecial on youtube. Poboyspecial experiments with his guns and takes requests to find out what happens in different shooting situations. I grabbed a couple of screen shots of the damage that he did on a coconut with a .25 ACP (the caliber of gun used to shoot Travis):
Notice the exit hole is 2-3 times larger than the entry hole. A coconut is obviously a poor choice to illustrate what happens with a human head, for many reasons, but it does illustrate more closely what we could expect when a bullet hits a hard surface. What would have been more valuable for our purposes, is if he had cut open the coconut so we could see what happened to the interior surface of the entry hole. That interior surface would be blown out far larger than the exit hole that traveled through an inch or more of coconut meat and the exit hull. It appears on the xray photos Horn showed (which were very briefly displayed) that the blow out on the interior of his head was about 1 1/2" in diameter.
Horn explained that in a young person, such as Travis, the frontal lobe of the brain is pressed right up against the skull, encased in three membranes. The outermost membrane is the dura matar, which is a tough sac that supports the brain and other structures. In order for a projectile to enter the brain at the forehead, it must perforate the frontal bone, then the dura matter, and then the other thinner membranes.
Horn claims the bullet did just that, traveled some distance into the frontal lobe before it tumbled down the structure of the skull into the face, ending up just above the teeth in the left cheekbone. Though he was unable to find evidence in the brain due to decomposition, he was confident that due to the holes the bullet left behind (in the forehead and sinus area) and the tracks he was able to find in the soft tissues, that the trajectory had to have entered and exited the brain. He was unable to find blood in the brain, and found very little blood in the sinus wound track, and therefore found that either Travis was already dead when that injury was realized, or he was almost dead, and had bled out from his other injuries.
So how did the "typo" happen? As it turns out, the explanation is simple. A couple of months ago, I had a discussion with a woman named Cheryl Prevor who is a either a psychologist or psychiatrist (sorry, I didn't write it down at the time). She talked about how coroners and medical examiners use a case management database system similar to that used in the medical field. As the ME conducts the autopsy, he/she takes notes that are later entered into the database. The database covers all aspects of an autopsy that the traditional hand-written forms covered, with the additional options of creating multiple reports for outside and regulatory agencies (how many autopsies per year, deaths by suicide/murder, etc). As the data is entered into fields, it generates other fields that relate to that particular issue. So, if the ME checks the box that says that there was a gunshot to the head, the fields that would come up would relate to gunshot wounds and head anatomy.
Some of the fields are default fields. We've all run into those situations where you order something online and you have a bunch of boxes to un-check if you don't want to subscribe to the newsletter, or want non-standard delivery. Cheryl believes that either Horn (or most likely one of the forensic techs he said helped him with the autopsy) went through the notes and either missed the box that said 'dura mater intact' or they could have also mis-read Horn's notes, and simply didn't catch it.
So why didn't Horn catch it at some point before the juror brought it up? The autopsy report is 8 pages long. Horn probably read it at the time it was generated, and simply missed that one little omission (of the word 'not'). He's read thousands of those reports and as happens anytime your brain is saturated with the same info over and over, you actually become immune to the errors. I know from experience, as a writer, we are required to hand off our work to a proof reading intern before it goes to the editor, we call it "a second set of eyes". Horn simply didn't catch it.
If he was intent upon framing Jodi in some way, why did he let it slip past? It was a stupid mistake, and it got the defense pretty excited because they really didn't want that bullet going through Travis's brain (otherwise there was no reason for Jodi to slaughter him).
Maricopa County requires medical examiners to have the following credentials:
- 4 years medical school
- 5 years residency in anatomic and clinical pathology
- 1 year fellowship in forensic pathology
- Medical boards in Anatomical Pathology
- Medical boards in Forensic Pathology
Horn has an impressive CV on top of this. He had nothing to gain by lying or perjuring himself. Why would he throw away his education and all those years of hard work just to please Juan Martinez?
Was the gunshot first?
No. Horn makes a good point that if the gunshot was first, Travis simply could not have ended up at the end of the hall. He couldn't have walked or crawled there. He would have been incapacitated. Jodi wants the gunshot to be first because the defense team operated from Detective Flores's point of view that the gunshot was first. Jodi crafted her actions on what she felt the ME found. I've always thought that the gunshot first scenario was far worst of a crime than the gunshot last. Gunshot first, and an incapacitated Travis who can't fight Jodi, or defend himself, is no threat, therefore everything else that was done to him, was depraved. He was slaughtered alive and perhaps conscious if he was shot first. But how did he get blood all over the bathroom, and at the sink if he was unable to function with a bullet in his face?
The gunshot last, even if he's dead, is actually the least gruesome. While it proves she shot him for no good reason (he was already dead), she could explain that by saying she lost her head and went nuts. Maybe she freaked out as his body shuddered or seized in death and she thought he was still alive. It's one thing shooting a dead man, another torturing a disabled man who can't fight back.
I know Geebee's head is exploding, but you have to look at the xray picture that shows the blowout wound on his forehead. Where else would the bullet go, if it didn't enter the brain and then exit into the sinuses? How did it get to the left cheekbone? If he was shot first, and still coherent, how could he possibly yell "fucking kill you bitch" with his face tore up by a bullet? If there was blood, it would fill his mouth and nose, he wouldn't be able to breath, let alone yell.
So what do you think? This is speculative, and not based on anything other than Horn's testimony and logical conclusions I inferred from that.
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All views are welcome. Please be civil to one another.