The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 33

(The Standard)  Kissel trial focus now on baseball bat.  By Albert Wong.  July 29, 2005.

The storyline in the Kissel murder trial began changing Thursday as the defense team dramatically unveiled a baseball bat for the jury - a prologue to their explanation of the events leading up to the death of former Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel.

So far, the defense has suggested through cross-examination of prosecution witnesses that Nancy Kissel, the accused, used the metal ornament identified as the murder weapon to defend herself from attack.

Bruises found on her arms and dents in the ornament's metal base were inflicted by a baseball bat, the defense has said.

A former domestic helper for the Kissels, Maximina Macaraeg, was recalled Thursday to the stand by the defense and asked if she could identify a wooden, champagne-colored baseball bat that she referred to when she first testified June 17.

"Do you recall being asked on that day whether Mr Kissel was a baseball fan or not?'' Alexander King, senior counsel for the accused, asked.

"Yes,'' replied the maid in English.

"Do you recall telling us in your evidence [referring to a photograph] that a baseball bat was kept in the master bedroom of the apartment between the two pieces of furniture that we see in that photograph?'' he asked.

"Yes,'' Macaraeg said.

She said she remembered saying it was wooden and medium weight since she often lifted it up when vacuuming.

Following those remarks, a police exhibits officer brought out an elongated object, heavily packaged, to rest on a desk in front of the judge.

The jury was kept in suspense as the officer carefully removed several of the outer layers of plastic bubble wrapping.

"Can I ask that all the plastic bags be removed,'' said the judge, noticing that the officer seemed content with removing only the outer layers.

With the baseball bat on display, Macaraeg left her seat to inspect it.

"Are you able to recognize whether that was the baseball bat you saw kept in the master bedroom between two pieces of furniture?'' asked King.

After a brief pause, she switched languages and replied in Ilocano: "I cannot be sure,'' she said through an interpreter.

Nancy Kissel, 41, is accused of serving her husband a milkshake laced with sedatives, which left the banker unconscious at the foot of their bed as she beat him to death with a heavy metal ornament on Sunday night, November 2, 2003.

The accused told a doctor and police at the time that her drunken husband had assaulted her after she refused him sex and then disappeared. She denies the charge and is out on bail.

The banker's decomposing body was found in a storeroom in the Parkview residential complex November 7.

Chief prosecutor Peter Chapman sought Thursday to undermine the possible scenario of a fight by asking forensic pathologist Lau Ming-fai to confirm that closely grouped blows to the head are "not suggestive of people moving around.''

Lau said five fatal blows to the head, inflicted by a heavy metal ornament, caused the skull to be pushed into the brain, causing severe bruising.

Lau conceded that "there's nothing in relation to the wounds themselves'' that could show that the deceased was not moving about, "but one has to look at the injuries as a whole,'' he said.

Considering the scenario of a stand-up, face-to-face fight, Lau thought it "unreasonable'' that five final fatal lacerations would be inflicted in a brawl.

Although one can be knocked unconscious by a blow that does not cause skull fracture, he said he would expect bruising from such a blow and he found none.

Chapman asked whether he agreed that if Nancy Kissel had used two hands to hold the ornament to shield the blows from a baseball bat, "she would not be able to inflict injury while defending herself.'' Lau agreed.

King suggested it was possible that the "repeated blows to one single area on the head could be inflicted in a short period of time.''

The blows could be "be inflicted in a frenzy - bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,'' said King.

Lau replied that "frenzy'' was a psychiatric term and that as a pathologist, "it was impossible to detect the mental state of the assailant.''

King noted that a paragraph in Lau's witness statement, which said that bruises on Robert Kissel's legs and thighs may have been caused by impact with another person or with hard furniture, was only inserted "after the defense had uncovered your memo [to the Department of Justice]'' during their visit to his office in April this year.

Lau had testified he found no sign of defensive injuries or other fractures on Robert Kissel's upper limbs.

The prosecution's case is being wound up.

Also Thursday the prosecution began reading the testimony of the final listed witness, Bryna O'Shea, who gave a deposition in the United States.

She identifed herself as Nancy Kissel's "best friend'' and a confidant of the late banker regarding the couple's marital problems.

Her testimony will continue to be read today.

(SCMP, no link)  Kissel had 5 fatal skull fractures, court told.  By Polly Hui.  July 29, 2005.

The squashed skull of Robert Peter Kissel had five potentially fatal fractures and five non-fatal lacerations, a court trying his wife for his murder heard yesterday.

Forensic pathologist Lau Ming-fai said the upper right side of the wealthy investment banker's head was "severely squashed" and the bone had been pushed into the white matter inside the brain.

He told the Court of First Instance he identified five lacerations on the head with depressed skull fractures beneath, and suggested each had been caused by a single blow.

"Each of these blows was potentially fatal, the combination was severely fatal," he said, adding there were another five non-fatal lacerations on the head.

Dr Lau said the edge of the base plate of the heavy ornament with which Nancy Kissel is alleged to have bludgeoned her husband to death was consistent with the curvature of the lacerations.

Holding two detached figurines to the metal plate with his hands, he demonstrated how the deceased could have been struck by the ornament. Dr Lau said there were no self-defence injuries on the upper limbs of the victim.

He suggested the deceased had been lying down with his face turned to one side and "had little or no ability to move or defend himself at the time of the attack".

This was in line with the government laboratory's findings of four hypnotic drugs and an anti-depressant in the deceased's stomach and liver, which Dr Lau said had caused "a certain degree of impairment to his consciousness".

Nancy Kissel, 41, is accused of killing her husband after serving him a sedatives-laced milkshake on November 2, 2003. She has pleaded not guilty in the Court of First Instance to a count of murder.

In cross-examination, defence counsel Alexander King SC asked Dr Lau whether a reason for the lack of defensive injuries on Kissel's upper limbs could be that he himself was in possession of a weapon.

The counsel also asked him if the metal ornament allegedly used for inflicting injuries could also be used for defending oneself from an attack by a weapon. The witness agreed.

But in re-examination, prosecutor Peter Chapman portrayed a scenario in which the deceased was standing, raising a baseball bat, "ready to strike" when the accused was holding the ornament as a shield. "The female would not be in a position to inflict injuries while defending herself, would she?" he asked.

Dr Lau agreed with the prosecutor. "Because when she's holding the ornament, she would not be able to inflict any blows on the other party," he said.

The defence had earlier suggested that the base plate of the alleged murder weapon - from which the two figurines were dislodged - had curved up after it was struck by a long object, such as a baseball bat.

Also yesterday a maid who worked for the Kissels at their luxury Parkview flat said she could not be sure if a baseball bat shown in court was the same as one she had seen in the couple's bedroom.

The bat was shown to prosecution witness Maximina Macaraeg by Mr King, who asked her if she remembered being asked during testimony last month whether the deceased was a baseball fan.

Also on that occasion she told the jury she had seen a wooden baseball bat placed between two pieces of furniture in the master bedroom and sometimes had to lift it up when vacuuming.

Mr King then asked for a bat to be presented to Ms Macaraeg. "Is that the bat you saw in the bedroom?" he asked. She replied: "I am not sure."

"Did you ever see any other baseball bat in the Kissel apartment?" he asked. She said no.

Mr Chapman asked the witness if she could see the bottom of the bat with the words "Little League". She said yes.

The case continues today.