Wednesday, February 25, 2015
The Autopsy Posts: The Prosecution Claimed (Conclusively) That Hae Was Strangled in the Passenger Seat
This is my seventh post about autopsies following my first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth posts. This post is simply a preview post for posts on conclusions 3-5. I am writing it because I realized that I was wrong about what the State argued about the strangulation of Hae Min Lee at trial. My assumption was that the State claimed Hae was in the driver's seat when Adnan Syed strangled her. That assumption was incorrect. Here is an excerpt from pages 50-51 of prosecutor Kathleen Murphy's closing argument at Adnan's second trial:
So, the State's theory of the case was ostensibly that:
1. Despite being in a hurry on January 13, 1999, Hae agreed to give Adnan a 1.2 mile ride from Woodlawn High School to the Security Boulevard Best Buy, with the plan being that Hae would drop Adnan off before driving to Campfield Early Learning Center to pick up her cousin.
2. Hae and Adnan agreed that Adnan would drive during this 1.2 mile ride, meaning that, when they arrived at Best Buy, Hae would have to get out of the passenger seat of the Sentra and move into the driver's seat (something she presumably had to do outside the Sentra, given the close confines of the interior of the 1998 Nissan Sentra).
3. When they arrived at the Best Buy, Adnan was able to get himself from the driver's seat into a position in which he could have the leverage to strangle Hae, head-on.
4. While Adnan was strangling Hae, she was pushing to get away, causing her right temple and the right occipital (lower) portion of her head to strike the passenger window, resulting in deep focal hemorrhaging, but leaving no damage or physical evidence on the window.
5. While Adnan was strangling Hae, she was also able to get her legs up from the passenger's side footwell and kick at Adnan, with one of those kicks damaging/breaking the windshield wiper wand on the right side of the steering column.*
I will leave it to readers to assess whether this version of events is more or less plausible than the theory that Hae was strangled in the driver's seat. In my posts about conclusions 3-5, I will consider both the argument that Hae was attacked in the driver's seat and the passenger seat.
*Oddly enough, Detective Kevin Forrester testified (page 203) that what was broken was the "selector switch" on the left side of the steering column:
[Update: As far as I can tell, this is the only time the prosecution mentions Hae's positioning in the car. Here is defense counsel's response to Murphy's claim:
As defense counsel notes, the prosecution didn't dare ask Dr. Korell whether the car window could have caused the focal hemorrhaging found in Lee's head. Of course, for some odd reason, defense counsel herself didn't ask Dr. Korell whether the hemorrhaging could have been caused by the car window. On the other hand, I did ask some experts, including an assistant medical examiner. I'll be posting the feedback I got next week.