EvidenceProf Blog

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Adding Context to the Defense's Failure to Call a Medical Examiner at Adnan's Trial

On an episode of Undisclosed, we mentioned how we'd found a stray notebook page in the defense files:

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 11.48.44 AM

In relevant part, this note seems to be instructing "Julie" to contact Dr. Robert Kirschner, a Chicago medical examiner, in connection with the Adnan Syed case. I wondered about this note because I'd always assumed that Julie, a second year law student who was clerking at Gutierrez's firm, wasn't involved in the Adnan Syed case. After all, when she was interviewed for Episode 10 of Serial, she said she wasn't part of polling the jury after the mistrial and that the polling was done by Gutierrez and "the law clerks on [the case]."

Today, however, I was looking through the defense files and found this memo:

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 11.55.35 AM

So, it turns out that Julie was working on Adnan's case, albeit on a (seemingly) more limited basis than three other law clerks/students. I wonder why she was the one that Gutierrez designated to contact a medical examiner, assuming that Julie was actually ever given this note. 

In any event, here were the notes that Gutierrez ended up taking during Medical Examiner Dr. Korell's direct testimony, which gives you an idea of her thought process on the forensic evidence:

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 12.04.46 PM



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That seems to indicate that his testimony was the first time she heard what the CID was. Surely that couldn't be the case... could it?

Posted by: Squatch | Nov 20, 2015 9:38:02 AM

Any chance of a transcription of CG's notes? Try as I might, I just can't make out about half of the words. Thanks!

Posted by: TB | Nov 20, 2015 9:52:21 AM

An attempt at transcription:
Cause of death Strangulation
Petachia Hemorrhages - eyeballs
Bleeding into strap muscles - inside
Hyoid fracture - bleeding - inside
Homicide - We use in Pathology - death
Form opinion @ time of death : asked?
Dead for quite some time
Lividity fixed - blood
Rigor = cold
Decomposing - skin slippage

Posted by: KC | Nov 20, 2015 11:29:37 AM

Seems nothing was ever followed through by anyone. I am shocked by such disorganization and while CG was ill, no excuse to not know she was way over her head in all matters that had to do with Adnan's case.

Posted by: navymom | Nov 20, 2015 11:39:11 AM

I'm not shocked by anything that CG did or didn't do. What a train wreck. If I were Adnan, I could never, ever forgive her.

Posted by: #FreeAdnan | Nov 20, 2015 1:54:00 PM

Any idea why she would contact Kirschner instead of someone local? Perhaps at Johns Hopkins?

Did she want a celebrity?

Your link indicates his entire career was in Chicago or international.

Posted by: boo | Nov 20, 2015 2:32:26 PM

Thanks, KC!

Posted by: TB | Nov 20, 2015 3:00:25 PM

Navymom - MS can cause some devastating cognitive, emotional, and psychiatric dysfunction . It seems as if Cristina may have put up such a defensive shield around herself, that nobody was close enough to her to say "Tina, you need to get help, something seems really wrong"

Some of the trial recordings and transcripts feature her producing classic, textbook examples of word salad. Yet, despite that, there seems to have been no intervention, no concern at all that a top flight, pit bull of a defence lawyer known for battling for the underdog,was very publicly descending into an incoherent and fractious mess.

There seems to be no oversight, no safety net that tackles that kind of situation, thereby preventing grave injustice swallowing up her clients.

I honestly think that the prosecution team had to have been aware of her increasing instability, and that they quite likely exploited that. That's probably how they were able to get a conviction despite a laughably pathetic theory. They must have known that the pit bull had lost her teeth, and that their case would be largely unchallenged.

Posted by: Squatch | Nov 21, 2015 1:14:45 AM

Ditto that swatch. I still think the judges should have intervened

Posted by: Linnette | Nov 21, 2015 5:57:24 AM

DITTO above comments

Posted by: Shannon | Nov 21, 2015 5:38:37 PM

I always thought the part of the role of the judge in a trial is to ensure that the defendant got a fair trial. I'd love to know what this judge has to say about watching this obviously debilitated attorney not representing her client. Why didn't the judge do something during the trial?

But then, considering the judge's unbelievable behavior and comments at Adnan's sentencing, it looks to me like she was on the prosecution's side al along. :(

Posted by: Eric Wolff | Nov 22, 2015 2:25:46 PM

Agree witih the above Squatch. Always wondered by the judge never intervened. I think she believed Adnan was guilty and was not going to do anything to help the defense even though she knew there was something seriously wrong.

Posted by: navymom | Nov 23, 2015 5:11:46 AM

Wow. I'm still stuck on CG setting death penalty precedent in Puerto Rico as an unhealthy person. Now it just keeps getting worse. Is the possible reason for her taking so many cases in so many drastically different parts of the country an attempt to not get caught taking on more cases than any one, sole attorney could handle properly? Or do you think it was more a matter of paychecks, regardless their origin, in an attempt to make as much financially as she could prior to being forced out of practicing? I find her story a tragic one. However the stories of the countless lives ruined by her actions (+ Puerto Rico) are jaw dropping.

Posted by: CareBear | Nov 23, 2015 9:56:14 PM

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