What Do Autopsy Details Mean To Case?

One of the most tantalizing bits of information is the plastic tape. It could point directly to the killer by revealing a fingerprint.

Lawyers say a technique perfected right in San Francisco's crime lab can yield fingerprints from plastic tape even after its been submerged in water.

Duct tape is the best for that but its unclear what kind of tape was on the bodies and it's unclear what role the autopsy will play in the trial.

So what does the autopsy information mean? ABC7's Heather Ishimaru spoke with San Francisco's medical examiner for his reaction and a homicide prosecutor for the legal ramifications.

Whatever the autopsy shows, San Francisco medical examiner Boyd Stephens says it will have to be taken in the context of all the evidence presented at trial.

Dr. Boyd Stephens, SF medical examiner: "It may play no part."

Stephens says an autopsy on an infant requires specialized knowledge and techniques. But on a baby, like an adult, there are ways to find out what happened to the body before and after death.

Dr. Boyd Stephens, SF medical examiner: "Remember when you read your Sherlock Holmes? The first thing Dr. Watson sees is Holmes beating a dead body to see if it bruises after death."

But decomposition can impair those tests and the rate of decomposition varies at every different part of the bay. Stephens says factors such as depth, temperature, type of bottom and rate of currents all play a role.

Jim Hammer, SF Dep. District Attorney: "The odds of a gag order have just gone up exponentially, that's one thing."

San Francisco Deputy DA Jim Hammer says the leaked autopsy details should be viewed with skepticism.

Jim Hammer, SF Dep. District Attorney: "Maybe it's going to play into this defense theory of satanic ritual, which I think is bogus."

Jim Hammer, SF Dep. District Attorney: "They're trying to float theories, plant reasonable doubt in people's minds. I think Geragos runs the danger of losing all credibility, becoming like the Iraqi information minister, where he spouts off lines no one believes."

And he says a gag order can't be far off.

Jim Hammer, SF Dep. District Attorney: "I would expect the judge to say pretty quick, stop talking. Whether the lawyers follow it or not and whether unnamed sources continue to leak things, that's another problem."

There's a wild card to watch for in the legal process. Hammer says DA Brazelton has the power to take the case before a grand jury more or less whenever he wants.

That could be a good move if he wants to keep the case in Modesto. To do that he needs to keep evidence secret for as long as possible to avoid infecting a jury pool. Grand jury proceedings are secret and transcripts can be sealed.

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