Friday, March 15, 2013

Manuel Velez: Reasonable Doubt: Pamela Colloff looks at new testimony from several forensic experts that suggests the medical evidence against him was deeply flawed. Texas Monthly. (Must Read. HL).

ARTICLE:  "Reasonable doubt: The Manuel Velez case," by Pamela Colloff, published in  Texas Monthly on March 6, 2013.

SUB_HEADING:   "A Brownsville construction worker named Manuel Velez was sent to death row in 2008 after he was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s baby. Five years later, new testimony from a number of forensic experts suggests that the medical evidence against Velez was deeply flawed."

GIST:  "All of this begs the question, when were these injuries sustained? It’s still unclear, but as Velez’s attorneys spoke with more medical experts, a pattern began to emerge: the experts all believed that the skull fractures and subdural hematoma had occurred before the two week window when Velez lived with Acela, the time frame prosecutors zeroed in on during Velez’s 2008 trial.
In 2011, Velez’s attorneys approached Dr. Daniel Brown, the neuropathologist who had originally autopsied Angel’s brain on behalf of the state, and asked if he could determine when the subdural hematoma had taken place. After he examined slides of the boy’s brain tissue, he stated that the injury had likely occurred 18 to 36 days before Angel’s death—when Velez was in Tennessee. Velez’s attorneys won the right to hold an evidentiary hearing, which took place last December. During the weeklong proceeding, not one of the seven medical experts who testified supported the state’s theory of the case. The state’s own expert witness, Dr. Norma Farley—who conducted the autopsy back in 2005—backed away from much of her original trial testimony, in which she stated that all of Angel’s injuries had taken place within two weeks of his death. Some, she allowed, could be 20 to 36 days old. Two forensic pathologists and a neurological surgeon testified that Angel’s skull fractures were more than two weeks old, and perhaps months old. Forensic pathologist Dr. Janice Ophoven explained that not much trauma was needed to push Angel into a critical state on October 31, 2005, if his brain was already swollen from head trauma. A rapid increase in head circumference is evidence of “increased intracranial pressure,” she said, which made the boy “a time bomb.” .........What comes next?.........Judge Elia Lopez, who presided over the evidentiary hearing, must submit her findings to the Court of Criminal Appeals by March 12. Then the court will have to decide whether or not to uphold Velez’s conviction or grant him a new trial. In the meantime, Velez sits in the Cameron County jail, where he was transferred last year after the Court of Criminal Appeals threw out his death sentence because of Merillat's faulty testimony. (The court affirmed his conviction; it only overturned his punishment.) If Velez is given a new trial, all of the scientific evidence that his attorneys have found will be presented in open court. If he is not given a new trial, a resentencing hearing will be held before a jury, who will have to determine whether he receives life without parole or is returned to death row."

The entire article can be found at:


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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.