Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Barren County On Trial

May 7, 2013

Defense calls first witnesses to stand



George Nichols

Dr. George Nichols, consulting forensic pathologist and retired chief medical examiner for the state of Kentucky, took the stand next as an expert witness. Nichols has extensive experience studying injuries and their causes in dead bodies as well as living people, he said, and he has served as an expert witness for probably more than 1,000 cases. For this case, Nichols said he reviewed photographs taken of Stinnett’s injuries, medical records from the T.J. Samson Community Hospital emergency room and witness statements.

Photographs document a five-centimeter laceration on Stinnett’s head, a scab and bruise on Stinnett’s elbow and various other bruises. While March 4, 2010, photographs show that Stinnett’s bruises are old at that point, Nichols said it is a myth that a bruise’s age can be determined by its color. Tissue samples would have to be taken in order to make any meaningful determination of the age of the bruises, Nichols said.

It is possible that Stinnett’s linear head laceration was caused by a baton, Nichols said, but there is no way to tell. The laceration, whether it was created in the struggle or an hour earlier in the van, would probably have bled a lot, Nichols testified.

“Scalp lacerations are notorious for spurting,” Nichols said.

When adrenaline of a chase or a struggle is considered, Nichols said the blood from Stinnett’s head could have traveled from the witness stand to the wall behind the jury box.

Stinnett’s bruises were definitely not caused by the shaft of a baton, Nichols testified, because there are no lines that indicate the width of the baton striking skin. Bruises behind Stinnett’s ears may have been caused by fists, but they could have been caused by a struggle while officers attempted to arrest Stinnett. The bruises’ shapes were all ambiguous as to what caused them.

“Could be a fist. Could be from bumping into an object in a motor vehicle,” Nichols said.

Bruises on the thigh could have been caused by kicks, Nichols said, but lower on the legs, Stinnett’s shins showed no sign of having been hit multiple times by a baton, as previously testified in trial.

“There would have been open wounds,” Nichols said.

When prosecutor Sanjay Patel brought up Stinnett’s steel-toed boots, Nichols agreed those might have protected the skin they covered. Blue jeans would not have been any protection, Nichols said.

Marks made by batons would have been affected by whether the person holding the baton was using his dominant hand, the speed of the strike and the padding of Stinnett’s two jackets, Patel said, and Nichols agreed.

However, Nichols told Patel he was wrong when the prosecutor said abrasions described in the emergency room records could have been caused by a baton. The T.J. Samson staff documented a variety of abrasions, and Nichols said an abrasion is a scrape, which could not be caused by a baton. Abrasions are generally caused by scraping a hard surface, such as pavement, Nichols said. Stinnett was arrested in a grassy area.

Nichols is paid to be an expert witness, and he told Patel that his rate is $400 per hour. Before court began, Nichols said he had spent four hours on the Stinnett case.


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Barren County On Trial
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