Monday, January 23, 2006

Body of Evidence (Part I) - Empiricum

Leaving the realm of Rambushire for a moment and sending to the dry clean my old but still flashy woolen pin-striped three-piece suit, it's time to don my plaid jacket, a tobacco pipe, a hat and a magnifying glass in hand.

Let's go sleuthing!

During the past few weeks there have been some loud (and I mean literally loud) and deafening debates aired on TV over the disappearance of George Smith IV in the Mediterranean honeymoon cruise with his wife, Jennifer Hagel Smith, aboard Royal Caribbean's "Brilliance of the Seas."

The ship's captain in command at the time of the incident but who has since "retired" is of the opinion that there was no foul play and that he believes that Smith accidentally fell overboard while under the influence of alcohol. Several TV "pundits" that include the talk show hosts and their guests have offered several theories but not one explained or theorized on the implication and significance of the blood on the canopy.

My THEORY on the matter is that there probably was a scuffle inside the Smith cabin which was a continuation of a "bad blood" as a result of an argument among Smith, his wife and a few passengers at the bar. (The cruise ship has several bars: one at the tower, by the atrium, and also by the pools. There has been no official statement or report as to which one.) Some passengers have stated that at the bar Jennifer was so drunk that she was reportedly leaning on the shoulder of one of the customers. This caused an argument between the Jennifer and George and Jennifer kicked George on the groin.

The photograph that shows the extent of the blood splashed on the canopy suggests that Smith was perhaps stabbed in his cabin causing blood stains in the carpet which was reportedly later removed and replaced. While Smith was bleeding and perhaps still alive, the assailant or assailants threw Smith overboard onto the water. Unfortunately, Smith landed on the canopy, instead. The assailant(s) rushed down perhaps using the nearest elevator which could be the one that is located in the mid-section of the ship leading to the theater, gift shop and the casino. (The ship has several elevators. Also, the canopy referred to here is probably one of the canopies that anchor the lifeboats underneath.)

The time that takes the assailant(s) from the cabin to the canopy including the wait for the elevator probably explains the amount of blood shown on the canopy. The shape and form of the blood stain also tends to show that the blood was coming from the torso and dripping and seeping down the thighs. If Smith accidentally fell overboard and landed on the canopy, as the captain claims, the body part that probably would bleed would be the head. But the extent, shape and form of the blood stain would belie that claim.

The questions now are:

--- why was the carpet removed and replaced so soon?
--- if an employee (or employees) of the ship is not directly or indirectly involved, why will RC not identify the assailant(s)... if it knows?
--- without casting aspersion, was the body eventually thrown overboard FROM the canopy or was it perhaps brought to a freezer for later disposition?

(Disclosure: I had the good fortune of cruising in the Caribbean with this particular ship, Brilliance of the Seas, two years ago. But this experience, by itself, does not qualify me to be a forensic expert in the criminology sense. I just engage occasionally with a different type forensics... the debating type.)

TOMORROW: The Natalie Holloway case.


Empiricum said...

Yesterday Dr. Henry Lee, brought to fame and some say "acclaim" by the O.J. trial, conducted an on-the-scene investigation and several experiments in the Smith case.

On board the "Brilliance of the Seas," Lee wanted to throw overboard a dummy to simulate the fall of Smith. RC denied that request. In my view, that particular experimentation has no probative value and is totally irrelevant for the following reasons:

--- the dummy bears not even a close resemblance of Smith's weight;

--- the dummy is bloodless;

--- the experiment is conducted in a far different environment and weather conditions as the ship is docked without the presence of the early morning mist;

--- the dummy is tied to a rope.

Such kind of experimentation even by a so-called "expert witness" can be easily attacked in court!

By the same token, the "trace and fiber" experimentation can also be attacked on the basis of scene contamination.

As regards the alcoholic beverage called "Absinthe," I find it irrelevant to the issues of cause of death and "whodunit." If anything, it only contributed to the drunkenness of the Smiths and some "John Does."

Empiricum said...

This is not to clip the wings of Henry Lee who burst to the national scene in the OJ case. Without a doubt, he has helped transform the art of forensic investigation into a science. But the adulation by some TV talk show hosts making Lee a demigod is uncalled for! If you watch Court TV late at night, you will notice that there are many forensic scientists out there who are equally deserving of untempered praise... without the flair for the dramatics.

Dr. Lee DID NOT win the OJ case for the so-called "Dream Team." Neither did Barry Scheck with his boring DNA presentations. If anything, Marcia Clark, Chris Darden, Mark Furhman, and Vannater lost the case. Marcia was good in arguing motions but was pathetic in dealing with witnesses in the stand... be it during the direct, re-direct, cross and re-cross. Chris blew the case with the gloves. Vannater played so dumb by bringing the blood vials to OJ's house. In the case of Mark... well, we all know how he was attacked on the stand.

Despite all that, they all became overnight celebrities with the blessings and adulation of the media.

By the way, who among the readers here remember specifically the testimony of Henry Lee in the OJ case that contributed to the acquittal? Frankly, I don't.

Last question, does the state of Connecticut which employs Henry Lee have any cold case remaining in its criminal mystery files?

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