VANGUARD COURT WATCH INVESTIGATION: Expert Highlights ‘Disturbing Ignorance’ of Primary Forensic Pathologist in Wrongful Accusation of Murder Case

By Madison Whittemore

(Editor’s note: The Clay case, and The Vanguard’s coverage of it, is part of an ongoing investigation.)

SOLANO, CA – Tre’ Kenneth Clay, a father facing apparently wrongful accusations of the murder of his two-month-old son, as reported by The Vanguard, appeared Friday in Solano County Superior Court in front of Judge Dan Healy, who produced two packets of subpoena responses for the defense and prosecution.

Tre’ Clay has been behind bars since 2021 when his son, Elijah Clay, died at Oakland Children’s Hospital after Elijah’s mother noticed he was pale, cold and breathing shakily. Elijah also had multiple bruises on his face and legs, according to the preliminary hearing transcript.

As of Feb. 2, the defense also filed a PC § 995 Motion to Dismiss for the count of assault on a child causing death against Clay. The 995 MTD arose because of alleged perjury in the forensic pathologist’s testimony and the prior defense attorney’s alleged incompetence, according to the court’s official motion to dismiss.

Amid Dr. Katherine Raven’s “inconsistent testimony and contradictory statements,” as noted by Clay’s mother, Michelle Lopez, in an Elijah’s Truth Journey press release, previously reported on by the Vanguard, Elijah was medically misdiagnosed and died because of a brittle bone condition and not Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).

Judge Healy noted the two packets were subpoenaed by Deputy District Attorney Barry Taira and were from the children’s hospital, UCSF Health, where Elijah died, and the county coroner’s office.

However, highlighting one of Deputy Public Defender Jeannette Garcia’s main concerns regarding Dr. Raven’s apparent lack of notes, logs, or documentation on Elijah’s autopsy and case, Judge Healy, addressing the subpoenas, stated, “What there is not here at all is nothing to do with documentation of the file…no logs here that would answer the questions I think you all had before…I assumed this means that they do not exist.”

Additionally, Friday, outside the presence of the court and Judge Healy, DDA Taira received a report written on Feb 13 from expert geneticist, Dr. Gerard Pals, addressing the main forensic pathologist Dr.  Raven’s testimony and the cause of Elijah’s death.

According to Dr. Raven, Elijah’s cause of death was likely from repeated abuse which she testified to during the preliminary hearing where she explained that X-rays of Elijah revealed a number of fractures that are indicated by fibrous tissue and skull lesions.

However, just a day before testifying in the preliminary hearing, Dr. Raven sent a contradictory text message to a Solano County morgue technician stating because of the complicated nature of Elijah’s case, it “makes it almost impossible for me to commit to abuse/homicide.”

During prior testimony during the preliminary hearing, expert geneticist Pals confirmed Lopez’s suspicions of medical misdiagnosis and provided evidence that Elijah likely suffered from a brittle bone condition and had “obvious congenital malformations,” which led to the infant’s early death, according to the court transcript.

In Dr. Pals’s Feb. 13 report, he addressed the “disturbing ignorance of basic knowledge” that Dr. Raven’s testimony indicated and explained how the CT and X-ray imaging used to determine Elijah’s fractures is faulty.

“This imaging method is insufficient due to the presence of accessory sutures that are often mistaken for skull fractures,” Dr. Pals stated in the report, asserting Dr. Raven’s conclusions about Elijah’s fibrous tissue being evidence of fractures are false, and this fibrous tissue actually indicates skull sutures (where parts of the skull come together).

Dr. Pals explained, referencing Cunningham’s Textbook of Anatomy—a textbook frequently used by medical students—that in past court proceedings he “did not go into this very extensively before, because the fact that skull sutures consist of fibrous tissue is very basic knowledge in human anatomy.”

Dr. Pals also noted most skull fractures don’t contain fibrous tissue and while Dr. Raven’s observations about Elijah having fibrous tissue are correct, her conclusions about what this fibrous tissue means are severely incorrect and inaccurate.

“This shows the presence of fibrous tissue in a skull lesion, as has been demonstrated by Dr Raven, is evidence that the skull lesions are not fractures, but accessory sutures. Accessory skull sutures, like all regular sutures, contain fibrous tissue that keeps the bones together, in contrast to skull fractures,” Dr. Pals stated in his report, once again highlighting his belief that Dr. Raven’s conclusions about what the fibrous tissue indicates are false.

Concluding his report, Dr. Pals called out Dr. Raven on her medical incompetence, stating, “Dr. Raven’s obvious misinterpretation of her own observations and of the CT imaging demonstrates a serious and very disturbing ignorance of basic knowledge in the fields of human anatomy, bone healing and forensic pathology.”

The case will resume on Feb. 28 when Dr. Pals and Michelle Lopez will be called to the stand for “some brief impeachment.”

About The Author

Madison Whittemore is a rising junior at the University of California, Davis where she studies political science and psychology. After completing her undergraduate studies, Madison wants to go to law school and study criminal law while working to improve efforts for prison reform and representation for lower income citizens.

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