By AMANDA LOVIZA VICKERY
Glasgow Daily Times
BOWLING GREEN —
Friday morning saw a succession of secondary witnesses in the deprivation of rights trial against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson County Drug Task Force detective Eric Guffey in U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky in Bowling Green. Blood and bruises were the main topics of conversation, as four witnesses discussed seeing blood at the scene of Billy Randall Stinnett’s Feb. 24, 2010, arrest and treating Stinnett’s injuries.
Calvary Baptist Church deacon Harold Feese arrived at his church about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 24, 2010, to attend Wednesday evening activities. Upon arrival, he saw police vehicles everywhere, he said, but a lot of people were starting to leave. Feese stayed late that night to cover the hole in the church building where Stinnett had crashed his van, and the next day, he said he decided to go back to the church and check out the grassy area where Stinnett was allegedly beaten by the defendants.
“I seen a lot of blood back there,” Feese said.
Feese saw a puddle of blood about the size of a large grapefruit on the ground, he said, and there was blood spattered on an air conditioning unit and the outside wall of the church fellowship hall.
No one from the Barren County Sheriff’s Office or other law enforcement had cleaned up the blood, he said, so it was still very fresh. He told Kelly Billingsley and some other men at the church what he saw, but he didn’t report it to an official agency.
Bridget Holbrook, a forensic scientist for the Kentucky State Police, was the second witness to testify Friday. Holbrook specializes in identification of body fluids, DNA analysis and blood stain pattern analysis, she said. She has worked on about 15 blood stain pattern analysis cases in her career, Holbrook said, usually receiving about two or three cases a year. As she confirmed to defense attorney J. Guthrie True on cross examination, she works in her other areas of expertise much more frequently than in blood stain pattern analysis.
FBI agent Mike Brown contacted the KSP forensic lab and asked Holbrook to analyze photos taken of the scene of Stinnett’s arrest and compare the photos to witness statements about what may have happened.
Holbrook’s May 2011 report on Stinnett’s case relied on the assumption that the stains in the photographs were blood, and the source of the blood was the laceration on Stinnett’s head, based on Stinnett’s medical record. Neither of those assumptions can be proven.
If his head were the source of the blood, then it was close to the ground when an object made contact with his exposed blood, based on the spatter pattern on a nearby air conditioning unit and wall, Holbrook’s report stated. Working with photographs, Holbrook said she could not determine whether the spatter was caused by one “spatter-inducing event,” or blow, or multiple blows.
Holbrook visited the scene in August 2011, about a year and a half after Stinnett was arrested, in an effort to form more definitive conclusions. She conducted two presumptive tests for blood, luminol and phenolphthalein. The luminol test was positive, but not the phenolphthalein. During cross examination, True asked Holbrook about some of the compounds other than blood that luminol can indicate, and Holbrook told him luminol tests positive potato juice, copper and some cleaning products, among others.
“So a luminol test can’t tell the difference between blood and potato juice, right?” True said.
Based on statements written by Stinnett and some witnesses, Holbrook wrote in her report that the spatter patterns were consistent with Stinnett being hit on the head repeatedly while lying on the ground. However, during cross examination, Holbrook told defense attorney Buddy Alexander the spatter could have been caused by a single blow, and that could have taken place during a struggle in which Stinnett was tackled to the ground. She could not determine which scenario was more likely, she told prosecutor Roy Conn III.
T.J. Samson Community Hospital attending emergency room physician Dr. Lee Carter and Nurse Practitioner Mary Anderson were the final two witnesses to testify Friday morning, as two of the medical professionals who treated Stinnett and Bennett for injuries the night of Feb. 24, 2010.
Stinnett had a “medium-sized laceration to the scalp” from sustaining a blow to the head, Carter read from Stinnett’s medical chart from that night. Carter has treated hundreds of injuries sustained specifically from police batons or similarly-shaped objects, he said, and the linear laceration across Stinnett’s head was consistent with being hit with the shaft of a baton. Stinnett had a variety of abrasions on his knees, shoulder, back and elbow, including a large abrasion on the back of the shoulder that Anderson said she still remembers.
Stinnett reported that his pain was a 10 on a scale of 10, but all vital sign and reaction tests were normal. Stinnett was bleeding a lot, but Carter confirmed to True in cross examination that “heads always bleed quite a bit.” Stinnett did not have to spend the night in the hospital and he was not given any prescription medication, Carter said.
Stinnett’s injuries were consistent with being hit by batons and fists, Carter testified, but upon cross examination he stated that the injuries could also be consistent with a struggle in which law enforcement officers were attempting to apprehend a resistant suspect. Stinnett’s injuries also could have possibly occurred in a car wreck, Carter said. His head laceration was not consistent with a blow from a fist.
Bennett was treated for a broken bone in his right hand near the knuckle of his pinky, commonly known as a boxer’s fracture or a brawler’s fracture, Carter said. It is almost impossible to sustain that type of injury in any way other than striking a fist against a hard object. However, Carter said there was no way to tell at what point in the pursuit of Stinnett that Bennett sustained the fracture. If Bennett sustained the injury by punching Stinnett in the head, Carter said it would probably be the last blow, because those fractures hurt a lot.