The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 51

(The Standard)  Expert denies methods flawed.  By Albert Wong.  August 25, 2005.

Counsel for the prosecution and defense prepare final speeches as Kissel trial draws to a close The lengthy trial of accused murderer Nancy Kissel is drawing to a close as counsel for the prosecution and defense are preparing final speeches to be heard in the High Court on Friday.

On Wednesday, the final witness, a government forensic scientist, maintained that he does not believe the curvature on the base of a metal ornament was caused by Robert Kissel - who was found dead in 2003 - striking it with a baseball bat, despite the defense suggestion that his methods were flawed and that he was "anxious'' to provide evidence for the prosecution.

Kissel, 41, is accused of drugging her husband with a sedative-laced milkshake before bludgeoning him to death with a heavy metal ornament on November 2, 2003. She accepts she inflicted five fatal blows to his head but says she cannot remember how she did it. Kissel has testified that her husband came at her swinging a baseball bat and that she used the metal ornament to protect herself. She denies the murder charge and is out on bail.

Earlier in the trial, the defense had suggested that the curvature on the base of the metal ornament had been caused by the impact of Robert Kissel's baseball bat.

Wednesday, Dr Wong Koon-hung agreed with defense counsel his conclusion that there was no significant impact between the baseball bat and the metal ornament was based upon the logic derived from his experiments, and that if his tests had been flawed "in any significant way'' then so would be his conclusion.

Wong had used two new Mizuno baseball bats to strike sheets of lead in a "controlled experiment'' to simulate the scenario of a furious Robert Kissel striking the metal ornament.

Wednesday, defense counsel Alexander King SC asked Wong, when he used the brown baseball bat to strike the lead sheets, "how many of those left paint residue?''  Wong replied, "none of them,'' adding that neither was there paint residue left when he used the other black painted baseball bat.

Tuesday, Wong had said he would also expect to find "wood grain pattern'' left by the bat on the metal base of the ornament, because when he conducted his simulated tests, his newly purchased wooden bats had left such patterns on the lead sheets.

"Did you conduct any tests to see what types of wood, each of the bats was made of?'' asked King. "No,'' replied Wong. Wong said he was mainly interested in the appearance and weight of the bats.

"You would agree would you not, different woods like different metals, have different hardness?'' asked King.

Wong agreed, but said that he was pretty sure that both his experimental lead sheets and the metal base of the ornament were "99 percent lead.'' King noted that the lead sheets were "noticeably thinner'' than the base of the ornament and "that would affect the indentation that would arise'' when struck with force.

He also suggested that since Wong's original statement was subjected to alteration by his superiors, he must have been "anxious'' to provide the right results for the prosecution.  In re-examination, Wong maintained he found "conclusive'' results to show the metal ornament was not struck with force by a wooden baseball bat.

The prosecution will submit its final speech on Friday before justice Michael Lunn.

(SCMP)  Kissel defence challenges bat tests.  By Polly Hui.  August 25, 2005.

The defence sought to cast doubt yesterday on a government forensic scientist's findings that the baseball bat Nancy Kissel said her husband beat her with had never been used to strike forcefully a lead ornament she claimed to have used in self-defence.

Alexander King SC suggested in the Court of First Instance that Wong Koon-hung was too anxious to find a basis to support the prosecution's argument that he had failed to consider potential flaws in his tests.

Kissel, 41, had earlier told the court she was beaten by Robert Peter Kissel, a senior Merrill Lynch banker, in their Parkview bedroom on November 2, 2003. She has admitted killing him but pleaded not guilty to murdering him.

Dr Wong had been asked early this month to find out if the arch in the base of the 3.7kg ornament was caused by blows from the bat. He said on Tuesday his tests, using 2kg lead sheets and two baseball bats, found no evidence of contact between the two objects.

Mr King asked if Dr Wong had tested the hardness of the lead sheets and the bats against the exhibits in the trial. Dr Wong said he had made the attempt, but the objects were too soft for hardness tests with the equipment in the government laboratory. Mr King asked if he had asked for funds to buy suitable equipment. He had not, because of time constraints.

Dr Wong also had not tested the type of wood the bats were made from. "Was there any reason?" Mr King asked. "Because I was more interested in general overall appearance of bats and their weight," Dr Wong replied. He agreed with Mr King that different wood could have different hardness.

Mr King pointed out the base of the ornament was 1.7cm thick, while the lead plates used in the experiments were about 25 per cent thinner. The bat in evidence, 67cm long and weighing 689g, was heavier and shorter than those used in the experiments.

Dr Wong said the ornament - a base of 15cm x 8.5cm surmounted by two figurines - was more resistant to bending, compared to the flat lead sheets he tested. Mr King asked why he had not had lead ingots made for the experiments. "I did inquire. But again, there's a time factor involved," he said, adding that the making of ingots could be dangerous because lead emitted toxic fumes when melted.

The witness was criticised by Mr King on Tuesday for destroying earlier experiment results by hammering the lead back to its original shape for further tests. He said yesterday it was not the lab's practice to photograph every test result.

Mr King also questioned Dr Wong about the discrepancy between the conclusions written by him and his superior in his police statement of August 5, 2005. He said Dr Wong's drafted conclusion was that "the baseball bat in the case had not been in contact with any of the metallic objects". But his superior's conclusion, which replaced Dr Wong's drafted conclusion on the statement, was that contact between the two objects could not be totally excluded.

"However, [the findings] indicated that the ornament base had not been struck by the bat with a significant force. Otherwise, impression marks showing wood grain patterns of the bat would likely be found on the metal," the superior wrote.

Mr King said: "Let me suggest to you that you were anxious to provide the police with some basis upon which the prosecution could argue in some way that the baseball bat never came into contact with the ornament." Dr Wong said the conclusion was based on his findings and discussion with his superior. "Anxious is a very subjective view. I knew I had to provide some results at a given time. But I was not anxious," he said.

In re-examination by prosecutor Peter Chapman, Dr Wong stressed he stood by the conclusion on his statement. He said he would expect to see some lead smear on the bat if it had struck the ornament. But he could find none.

Dr Wong said there was no wood paint left on the lead sheets he struck with the bats in his experiments - one of them painted, the other varnished. "It would never leave paint anyway, because there was no paint to leave," Mr Chapman said, in reference to the varnished one.

Mr Chapman will begin his closing submission tomorrow.