EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Monday, November 23, 2015

Lividity Evidence Contradicts State's Timeline in Clearwater Murder Case

Lividity evidence might be the key to securing the exoneration of Major Roman Izzo, who is accused of murdering Vincent Lee. The State's theory of the case is as follows:

On the evening of Nov. 15, Izzo left Columbus, Ga. sometime after 7 p.m. He drove 6½ hours to Clearwater [Florida] and killed Lee sometime around 2:30 a.m. Then he drove another 6½ hours back to Georgia, making it in time for work at Fort Benning by about 9 a.m.

There's just one problem with this theory, and it comes in the form of lividity evidence.

An investigator from the medical examiner's office examined Lee's corpse at 5:30 A.M. on November 17th, 27 hours after Lee was supposedly killed. During this examination, lividity was not yet fixed. This led to an interesting exchange between Romaine's attorney -- Stephen Romine -- and medical examiner Wayne Kurz:

Kurz agreed that it was "unusual" for lividity not to be fixed after such a long time.

"I wouldn't say it's 100 percent impossible," Kurz added.

Romine asked: "Is it more likely that the body has been dead closer to 12 hours...or closer to 27 hours." 

"I'd say more likely closer to the 12," Kurz answered.

That would mean that Lee died about 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, when Izzo was in Georgia.

During the deposition, Izzo's attorney continually picked at the phrase "the degree of medical certainty," to show how even the expert medical examiner struggled to know exactly when Lee died. 

In a case where timing is everything, knowing when the killing happened could either support or extinguish the police's theory. But according to Kurz, no one from the Police Department or State Attorney's Office asked his opinion on the matter during the investigation.

"We now know this couldn't have happened as the police alleged," said Romine, Izzo's lawyer. "It's a big deal that the medical evidence doesn't match up with the very theory offered by police. The science doesn't match their timeline of events."

As I've noted before on this blog, lividity typically becomes fully fixed within 8-12 hours after death, although fixation can be delayed in some circumstances, such as when the temperature is very low.



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