After just over two and a half days of testimony, Justice of the Peace Eileen Harrington ruled today that there is sufficient evidence to take the case to trial.
The case has been bound over and the Arraignment is tentatively set for May 19th at 10:00 at the Storey County Courthouse.
District Attorney Langer presented two compelling expert witnesses, Dr. Piotr Kuviczk and recently retired Las Vegas Crime Scene Investigator Michael Perkins. They combined to paint a picture for Ms. Langer that the physical evidence found on the body of Judy Black and the blood pattern evidence collected from the Sheriff’s Office on the scene suggested a scenario that differed substantially from the one offered by the accused Brett Black; that he woke to find Judy Black dead at the bottom of the stairway some time after she met her demise.
Dr. Kuviczk, who performed over 4000 autopsy in his 22 years in medical school and professional practice, performed the autopsy of Judy Black for the Washoe County Coroner’s Office. His testimony was grim and graphic. More than 20 autopsy photos were entered into evidence and were, as you might expect, explicitly revealing.
Mr. Black seemed visibly affected by the first several pictures and appeared to not look at the ones that followed as they were projected on the video screen for everyone in the courthouse to see.
In a distinctive Eastern European accent, Dr. Kuviczk testified his findings on each picture he constructed an opinion that he ultimately concluded the nature of the injuries suffered by Ms. Black were “ highly suspicious”.
Pictures of the scalp, skullcap and brain all showed severe damage from multiple blunt force trauma incidents and there was significant bleeding in the brain case.
Dr. Kuviczk testified he didn’t find evidence of defensive wounds or a pattern to any of the wounds that would suggest Ms. Black received her blunt force injuries due a struggle or beating. Under cross examination he repeatedly rejected the notion that lack of fist knuckle patterns would rule out the notion that any of Ms. Black’s injuries were caused by blows from a fist. When asked why he didn’t rule the cause of death a homicide, he testified that was not his purview and in fact he was specifically bound by contract not to discuss his opinion as that was the responsibility of the referring County.
Compelling testimony was also delivered by the second expert witness, Mr. Michael Perkins. During his direct and cross examination, Mr. Perkins revealed himself as a personable, eloquent, likable, professional and wholly competent witness. He began his testimony by delivering an overview of his 28 year career in which he participated in the analysis of crime scenes as a certified forensic investigator. His career with the Las Vegas police department included working on 724 murder scenes and over 7600 crime scenes resulting in death.
His testimony centered around a report he wrote at the request of the Clark County Coroner. This report consisting of 30+ pages and was the result of over 120 hours of investigation and analysis of 197 photographs over the course of six months. Unlike the Dr. Kuviczk’s testimony, the photographs discussed during direct and cross examination were not made visible to the public. Due to his clear and uncomplicated delivery of his analysis, he delivered excellent visual descriptions of each of the pictures and his expert use of his hands and body motions during his granular explanations of each picture made the lack visual images a non-issue.
His testimony, which consumed over half of yesterdays proceedings and into today. was exhaustively detailed and patently delivered. He focused on the socks, whose distinct pattern matched one of the socks found in the Black’s Dryer. All the sock prints were deposited in a manner that could not have been made at any time other than when the blood was very fresh. Because they were distributed throughout the scene they because one of the main focus points of his investigation. Especially troubling was the sock print discovered under the body of Ms. Black and at the top of the stairs.
His testimony also concluded that the lack of blood between the base of the bottom stair and the torso and the appearance of smear marks let him to believe that the scene was cleaned up or disturbed at some point after Ms. Black’s death and the arrival of the EMT and Sheriff’s Office. He concluded this disturbance could only have been done while the blood was wet and not several hours after death when Mr. Black claims to have discovered Ms. Black at the bottom of the stairs.
His report had 8 conclusions that lead him to determine that the bloodshed observed suggested Ms. Black died as the result of a homicide.
Mr. Black was released to the custody of his son and ordered back in Storey County Court on May 19th at 10:00 to be arraigned.
While the evidence and testimony was compelling, and swayed this writer, it is important to remember the process. The preliminary hearing is tilted in favor of the prosecution as they need to meet the burden of proof to convince the Justice of the Peace there is enough evidence to move forward. The burden of proof in a trial demands a higher standard of proof to convince twelve peers of guilt.