by Julienne Correa and Yelda Arghandiwal
Medical testimony was given by a prominent medical examiner, contradicting some of the recent testimony from other medical experts
On October 17, 2016, the People vs. Darnell Dorsey resumed, with Judge Paul Richardson presiding. Darnell Dorsey is charged with violations Cal. Penal Code sections 273a and 273ab, assaulting and causing fatal injury to his girlfriend’s 20-month-old child, Cameron Morrison. Deputy Public Defenders Martha Sequeira and Joseph Gocke represent Darnell Dorsey, and Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin represents the People.
The People called Dr. Bennett Omalu, a physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist with a masters in Business Administration. He has extensive experience through many years of schooling, has attained several board certifications, and has completed various clinical internships. One of his main focus is a Masters of Public Health of Epidemiology, with emphasis on the study of disease and movement. He also discovered a disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), when performing an autopsy on a former NFL football player, demonstrating how repeated blows to athletes’ heads can cause permanent injury. In addition, he performed 8,000 autopsies since 1984 and is the Chief Medical Examiner of San Joaquin County. He also has testified in many court cases, especially high profile ones.
According to his definitions, physical injuries to the head represents a transfer of kinetic injury, moving the head violently from the external impact. Selective vulnerability refers to the fact that, for every brain disease or trauma, neurons in the central nervous system may be more or less prone to abnormal functioning or cell death.
Dr. Omalu was sent different samples from Cameron Morrison’s body, such as brain and tissue samples from the medical examiner in the case. Omalu reviewed medical records and published his own findings for the courts. Cameron was found to have severe brain trauma and the hypothalamus, which regulates hormones in the body, was damaged. Dr. Omalu also examined the spleen, which detects pneumonia and promotes changes to the immune system, but, from his findings, pneumonia was not present. Instead, bronchitis seemed to align with his findings and neutrophils, white blood cells that aid the immune system, were not present.
There was also evidence of contusions in the lungs, liver and abdomen, which are often signs of child abuse. The low levels of vitamin D in the child’s system does not contribute to a metabolic bone disease, and many children actually suffer from these low levels. Also, he examined Cameron’s brain, and there were several signs of trauma, evidenced by subdural hemorrhaging, brain swelling and external injury.
Defense asks the wrong questions from Forensic Pathologist
by Yelda Arghandiwal
The prosecutor called a forensic pathologist to provide his expertise on Cameron Morrison’s case and cause of death. The Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu testified that Cameron Morrison’s cause of death was due to the severe brain injury due to the head trauma.
The defendant, Darnell Dorsey, Cameron Morrison’s step-father, is being charged with California Penal Code 273a and 273ab. California Penal Code 273a is any person who causes suffering or death to any child, resulting in imprisonment in county or state jail. California Penal Code 273ab is any person taking care or in custody of a child under age eight, assaults the child by force or produces bodily injuries to cause the death of a child, shall be imprisoned for 25 years to life. In this case, Cameron Morrison was under Mr. Dorsey’s care when he was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead at 19 months of age on January 25, 2016.
The court session continued with Michelle Serafin’s direct examination of Dr. Bennet Omalu. Dr. Bennet Omalu is a physician, forensic pathologist and a neuropathologist who was contacted by the people to examine the case of Cameron Morrison. Dr. Bennet Omalu was given all the medical records to view and testify before court. Me. Serafin asked what health caused the injuries to Cameron Morrison. Dr. Bennet Omalu answered, “There were axial and vascular injury from the trauma.” Dr. Bennet Omalu said the injuries to Cameron Morrison’s body were not made in the hospital because occipital context, cerebral, and white matter should not cause injuries. Also, the hippocampus was not injured because that is the memory and cells that carry grey matter therefore the test showed negative.
Ms. Serafin asked if the APP test could be false?
Dr. Bennet Omalu answered “no, you cannot implement APP, once you get the result that is it.” However, if you have a positive test to APP, and you want to make it negative, you would have to reduce concentration of the body to make the result negative.
Ms. Serafin asked if physicians conclude child abuse based on one test.
Dr. Bennet Omalu said, “no physicians makes a conclusion of child abuse based on one test or culture, a combinations of test are done in order to make the conclusion of child abuse.” Dr. Bennet Omalu concluded there were injuries on the spine of Cameron Morrison which shows evidence of trauma (brain) epi hemorrhage. This evidence indicates torture from torso, trauma in the back spots not diffused but scattered.
Ms. Serafin asked about Cameron Morrison’s eyes.
Dr. Bennet Omalu said eyes are part of the brain. When a child is 2-3 months old, the eyes come out brain and push forward. In Cameron Morrison’s medical reports is showed “extensive bleeding on the Dural, in it, and on top of it indicating violent forces.” However, there were no evidence of disease in the eye. Dr. Bennet Omalu cut the patient’s eye after the autopsy and indicated the was brain swollen, optic desk hemorrhage pushed forward, hemorrhages in the retina, and the retina roles our the DIC test because you have the eye in front of you to determine the issues. The procedure to cut the eye open allowed Dr. Bennet Omalu to view all layers of the eye which are top to bottom; there were no cloths in the veins or arteries but it showed high protein fluid of the retina detachment and detached from wall of the eye. When the prosecutor asked if DIC cause retina detachment, Dr. Omalu said, “DIC don’t cause retina detachment, only trauma relative to blunt face from the right side of face.” Dr. Omalu stated blunt face trauma of the brain, back (spine), torso and trunk caused the death of Cameron Morrison based off of the totality of the medical reports. These are mechanism that are induced by the adult care taker concluded Dr. Bennete Omalu.
Mr. Gocke started cross examination on behalf of Darnell Dorsey, the defense. Mr. Gocke asked the witness, Dr. Omalu, what his testimony is based off of. Dr. Omalu answered that he received parts of the bones of Cameron Morrison. Dr. Omalu did his own test and came to his own conclusion then shared it with the doctor who was in care of Cameron Morrison. Dr. Omalu made his conclusions after the test result as the “General Accepted Principles” when presenting a case of a patient.
Mr. Gocke stated that in 2009 a journalist from Scotland wrote about Dr. Bennet Omalu and said that his findings are false.
Mr. Bennet Omalu refuted “the journalist was hired by NFL to call his work ‘bullshit’ theory, to make me look stupid.” Dr. Omalu had concluded that football causes brain damage to the players and NFL wanted to shut him down so they hired a journalist out of United States to write against Dr. Omalu. Dr. Omalu continued by stating that members of the Nobel Peace Prize came to his house on October 17 to present him the offer of “The Royal Award of Surgeons,” stating that his work is appreciated and accurate. Dr. Omalu then included there are corrupt doctors and reffered to the new movie, “Concussion.” This movie is about Dr. Omalu who received threats because he made the claim that football causes brain damage. He made this point because he said he has a lot of enemies only because he stands for the truth and the truth is that the cause of Cameron Morrison’s death was the brain trauma indicating child abuse.
Mr. Gocke tried to make a point that Dr. Omalu testified before court about 10 years ago without looking at medical records.
Dr. Omalu clarified that when the attorney approached Dr. Omalu about the case 10 years ago, the attorney said there are no medical records. Therefore, based off of the other evidence that was provided to him, he testified that the defense was innocent. At the hearing, the prosecutor spoke about medical records showing the defense is guilty of being an alcoholic and Dr. Omalu was caught by surprise. Then he had told the judge that he could no longer testify in this case because he wasn’t aware of the medical records leaving the methodology falsely flawed. As a result, Dr. Omalu makes sure that the attorney provides all evidence and medical records in order for him to take the case.
Mr.Gocke asked if Dr. Omalu depends on evidence of his other patients in the past to determine the results of his new case. Dr. Omalu answered, “no, science can’t move forward if you only rely on the results of the past.” Every case should be looked at differently and as a new case.
Mr. Gocke asked Dr. Omalu why he had given a firm a discount for another case he was working with implying that he is very close to attorneys.
Dr. said he has done about 10 cases for the same firm and the firm has about 70 different lawyers so he is not always working with the same lawyer.
Mr. Gocke asked why FDA sent a letter to Dr. Omalu telling him to stand down on a something that he is working on.
Dr. Omalu answered UCLA and FDDNP developed a product which would affect NFL drastically and they couldn’t sell it to Dr. Omalu but they were afraid that NFL would find it and destroy it. Therefore, NFL lobbied FDA to kill their product. That is when FDA sent a letter to Dr. Omalu stating that for his new product he could not use “diagnosis” but to use “identification” instead. Then Dr. Omalu changed his wording, sent back to FDA and now FDA is working so “the letter was in good faith,” stated Dr. Omalu.
Mr. Gocke moved to the next question asking about the injuries to Cameron Morrison. Dr.Omalu answered there was injury to the right side of the cheek, but no bones were broken or tooth injury.
Mr. Gocke asked is Cameron Morrison’s bones showed metabolic bone disease.
Mr. Omalu answered no there was no sign of metabolic bone disease; however the long bone of the right arm didn’t show a specific fracture but it showed a spiral fracture which is caused by twisting of arm.
Mr. Gocke stated that last week another Forensic Pathologist was here and she stated there was metabolic bone disease, “so are you saying the Forensic Pathologist is non-credible?”
Dr. Omalu answered imaging isn’t an absolute tool but autopsy is the standard way to examine bones. He received certain bones from the ribs that were fractured to test and the bones showed no metabolic bone disease but it was clear case of child abuse, not pneumonia. If metabolic bone disease existed then it would have showed in the other tests but it didn’t.
The questions that defense was asking were all going against them at this point. The bruises and injuries all indicated child abuse according to Dr. Omalu.
Mr. Gocke asked what the normal white blood cell count level is for a child age of Cameron Morrison.
Dr. Omalu answered, “4-11.”
Mr. Gocke refuted that Tracy Sutter Hospital reported that Cameron Morrison’s white blood cells were 17.7 which are way out of the range. Then Dr. Omalu reviewed the report provided by Mr. Gocke.
Dr. Omalu explained that in the report is says Cameron Morrison had 17.4 white blood cells but next to that number is Tracy Suttor Hospital’s normal white blood cell count level which are 9-17.4 because every hospital has a different range of numbers in the normal white blood cell count level. Also Cameron Morrison’s was a little high due to dehydration or shock. He also concluded that if Cameron Morrison had pneoumonia then his white blood cell count would escalate rapidly due to Relative Neutrophilia. Finally, stating all these injuries were due to child abuse.
Mr. Gocke and counsel had no further questions and the witness was excused.