Testimony gets lurid in third day of Brooks trial
Sun News Service
AUBURN – Testimony in the murder trial of Timothy Brooks turned gruesome Wednesday as a pathologist with the Washoe County, Nevada, coroner’s office described in detail the wound that Robert Ash sustained to his abdomen.
Dr. Christine Elliott said the 48-year-old Newcastle, Calif., developer had received a horizontal eight centimeter, three inch wound to his “right lateral back” that lacerated a rib and struck his renal artery. She also indicated that it was “consistent with a sharp force injury.” The cause of death was massive loss of blood due to sharp force injury, Elliott said.
Elliott indicated during her testimony that Ash had multiple needle puncture wounds, a catheter mark and other indications that he had gone through surgery before she conducted the autopsy on him. She also said that she thought the knife used to create the wound had been serrated. Deputy District Attorney Jim Brazelton showed Elliott the fishing knife that Brooks admitted using to stab Ash and she noted that the knife was consistent with the stab wound.
Defense attorney Marcus Topel tried to show that Ash was moving at the time Brooks stabbed him, indicating that Ash was punching or kicking Brooks.
Topel used defense attorney Tom Leupp as a prop when he asked Elliott to place a piece of tape on Leupp where Ash’s wound was. He then had Leupp act out a right handed punch moving left and then a sweeping kick. He asked Elliott if she thought Ash’s wound was consistent with those motions and she said they were.
Elliott noted that it would not be possible for two men facing one another and one to have a wound to the back right side if he were stationary.
During this line of questioning, Robert Ash’s mother and sister waited in the Superior Court hallway. Ash’s widow, Mimi Ash, cried during part of the testimony with her head down and walked out in the middle of the statements, returning later.
Although the photos and details of the wound were gruesome, Elliott’s charismatic energy and humor seemed to make it easier for the jury to take in the evidence, some even laughing at times during the re-enactment.
The prosecution wrapped up its case today with Placer County sheriff’s Deputy Michael Farquhar, an evidence technician. The defense called three witnesses to the stand Wednesday afternoon, all Placer County sheriff’s employees.
Topel tried to prove to the jury that his client had been given a left black eye by Ash before the stabbing occurred, but the witnesses denied that they had seen Brooks with a black eye the day of the incident.
In Topel’s cross re-examination of Deputy John Lasagna Wednesday morning, Lasagna said that he did not notice that day if Brooks had been hit in the face. Lasagna got up from the witness stand and stood in front of Brooks to look at his face, at the request of Deputy District Attorney Brazelton.
“His face looks thinner today and he had a red glow all around his face,” Lasagna said. “He looks very similar to the way that I saw him [last August].”
Topel questioned whether Brooks looked confused or appeared to be in a state of shock, which is what Lasagna had testified Tuesday that Brooks had looked like on the day of the incident. Lasagna said he did not.
In the afternoon, Topel called Deputy Natalie James, the booking officer on Aug. 17 in Tahoe, to the witness stand. James testified that she noted in her intake form on Brooks that he had a black eye. She indicated that she wrote that because Brooks had told her he had a black eye, not because she viewed it herself.
“If someone says they had two noses, would you write it down?” Topel asked.
“Yes, I would,” James stated.
Brazelton also had James look closely at Brooks, who also noted that he looked the same as he did on August 17.
However, James, who is typically stationed in Auburn, had testified earlier that she couldn’t recall Brooks from that day except that “He was the Tahoe guy.” She also interviewed him through a glass safety wall.
Both Lasagna and James were asked to view Brooks’ mug shot, which James had taken, and indicate whether they thought Brooks had a swollen or puffy eye. They both said he did not and Topel passed the photo around for the jury to see.
Brooks, who has remained emotionless and fairly motionless throughout the last two days of the trial, wrote notes and made comments to defense attorney Thomas Leupp when James was on the stand. Leupp patted Brooks’ shoulder at one point in a comforting way.
The defense will continue its case Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. in Department 1.
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