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The People v. Robert Canizalez Et. Al

July 20, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT CANIZALEZ ET. AL., DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.



(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. KA080781) APPEALS from judgments of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Robert M. Martinez, Judge. Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ashmann-gerst, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

Robert Canizalez (Canizalez) and Martin Morones (Morones) (collectively appellants) appeal from the judgments entered upon their convictions by jury of three counts of second degree murder (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a), counts 1-3)*fn2 and three counts of vehicular manslaughter (§ 192, subd. (c)(1), counts 5-7). Canizalez also appeals from his conviction of dissuading a witness by force or threat (§ 136.1, subd. (c)(1), count 4). The jury found to be true as to counts 1 through 3 the allegation that appellants had personally inflicted great bodily injury (§ 1203.075, subd. (a)). The trial court sentenced Canizalez and Morones to prison terms of 48 years to life and 45 years to life, respectively.

Appellants contend that (1) there is insufficient evidence to sustain their second degree murder convictions, (2) the trial court erred in admitting gruesome and inflammatory evidence regarding the victims' deaths, (3) appellants were deprived of their Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to confrontation and cross-examination, when a medical examiner testified from reports regarding two autopsies he did not perform, and (4) the cumulative effect of the errors was prejudicial, requiring reversal. Morones further contends that (5) the trial court abused its discretion by permitting the prosecutor to introduce a photograph of the deceased victims while alive, (6) the trial court erred in instructing the jury in accordance with CALCRIM No. 400, which erroneously requires that an aider and abettor be found "equally guilty" with the direct perpetrator, (7) the trial court erred in instructing the jury in accordance with CALCRIM No. 403, which, as given, only states that the jury could find appellants guilty of murder as an aider and abettor under the natural and probable consequences theory, not that it could find them guilty of vehicular manslaughter, and (8) the trial court erred in refusing to give a pinpoint instruction on the relationship between implied malice and natural and probable consequences of aiding and abetting. Canizalez further contends that (9) the trial court abused its discretion and deprived him of due process and a fair trial by allowing evidence of prior acts of bad driving, (10) he suffered ineffective assistance of counsel by reason of his attorney's failure to (a) seek to exclude the hearsay testimony of the medical examiner, and (b) seek to exclude the medical examiner's testimony regarding the horrific and gruesome details of the injuries to the victims, and (11) CALCRIM No. 403 was erroneous because appellant could not be convicted of murder as the natural and probable consequence of aiding and abetting a misdemeanor.

Each appellant joins in the contentions of the other, as applicable. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.200(a)(5);see People v. Stone (1981) 117 Cal.App.3d 15, 19, fn. 5.)

We affirm.

FACTS

Background

In October 2007, Dora Groce (Dora) resided at Brookside Mobile Home Park (Brookside) in El Monte with her husband and their two children, eight-year-old Robert and four-year-old Katherine. Brookside had approximately 500 units and only one entrance and exit, which was on Elliott Avenue, east of Parkway Drive. Proceeding east on Elliott Avenue across Parkway Drive led directly into Brookside. Dora drove a 2002 Nissan Altima (Altima).

The intersection of Parkway Drive and Klingerman Street was a quarter of a mile south of the intersection of Parkway Drive and Elliott Avenue. Both intersections had four-way stop signs. The posted speed limit on Parkway Drive was 30 miles per hour. Mountain View High School was in the area.

The crash

On October 8, 2007, between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m., Canizalez driving a red Mustang and Morones driving a brown Honda north on Parkway Drive, at Klingerman Street, stopped side by side. They exchanged words, their tires screeched and they raced side by side on Parkway Drive, attaining speeds up to 87 miles per hour.

According to two witnesses, German Uruena (German) and his son Victor Uruena (Victor), the Honda took the lead. At that time, Dora was proceeding from Brookside into the intersection of Elliott Avenue and Parkway Drive in her Altima. The Mustang and Honda ran through the four-way stop sign at that intersection, the Honda hitting the rear of the Altima and then the Mustang hitting the front.*fn3 The Altima was pushed into a green truck driven by Miguel Robles (Robles) and burst into flames. The truck was turned 180 degrees. The Honda hit a red Nissan Sentra driven by Marivel Villagrana (Villagrana), who was in her car parked on Parkway Drive, a few houses north of Elliott Avenue. Villagrana's Sentra then hit a red Camaro in front of it.

The fatalities

Los Angeles County Fire Captain Henry Rodriguez responded to the accident scene, where he saw the Altima "totally involved with fire." Black smoke and flames were inside the car, with a burning woman visible in the front seat. " . . . [V]oices of children screaming," were coming from the back of the car. The flames and intense heat made it difficult to break the windows and impossible to free the occupants. When the fire was extinguished, three bodies were found inside the car. The two in the rear had their arms stretched out as if reaching for each other. The victims were later identified as Dora, Katherine and Robert.

Appellants flee the scene

After the collision, Canizalez got out of his Mustang, walked to the Honda and helped Morones and a few other men push the Honda into Brookside. Gilbert Canizalez (Gilbert), Canizalez's brother, lived with his family at Brookside. At approximately 5:30 p.m., he saw Canizalez running toward their home shaking, with a cut on his arm. Canizalez first told him that he had been in a fight. When Gilbert said he did not believe his brother, Canizalez told him that he was racing Morones, had just crashed, lost consciousness and woke up when he smelled smoke. Gilbert drove him back to the accident scene to get medical assistance from an ambulance. Gilbert admitted to detectives that Canizalez told him that he and Morones had been drinking beer before the crash.*fn4

El Monte Police Sergeant Richard Williams was the first responder to the accident scene and learned that "somebody . . . had been pushing one of the cars that was involved in the accident." He located the car, parked in a space 50 to 75 yards from the entrance to Brookside. He contacted Marvin Morones (Marvin), Morones's brother, and asked him who had been driving the car. Initially, Marvin said that he did not know, but that it belonged to his father. After Sergeant Williams showed the Honda to Marvin, Marvin admitted it belonged to Morones. Morones fled to Mexico but was later deported back to the United States.

Canizalez's accident-scene statements

When Canizalez returned to the accident scene, Victor heard him tell a firefighter that the Mustang was not his car but that it had been stolen and was being driven by someone else. Victor told Canizalez not to lie because Victor had seen him jump from the Mustang, do nothing to help the victims and help move the Honda. Canizalez responded, "I know where you live. I know where you go to school, and I'll kill you." A firefighter stepped between them.

Robles heard Canizalez admit to a paramedic that he was driving the Mustang. Robles interjected that Canizalez was racing, which Canizalez denied, claiming he was not racing and that it was an accident.

Gerardo Romero (Romero), a bystander, also heard Canizalez say that he was the driver of the red Mustang. Romero also heard him say, "[L]ook at [my] car. [I] crashed [my] car. [My] car is fucked up." Romero and Canizalez's friends told him to be quiet "there's kids in that vehicle." Canizalez responded, "I don't give a fuck about those kids. I give a fuck - look at my car. I don't give a fuck about those kids."

The investigation

Irwindale Police Officer John Fraijo, a former mechanic and street racer, testified that he inspected the Honda and Mustang, which was known for being a fast car. The tread wear on the Mustang's driver's side rear tire was consistent with rapid acceleration, and the rims and tires were larger than standard. He was unable to determine if there were any engine modifications due to the extensive front end and fire damage. The Honda, on the other hand, had been lowered "by changing out the coil springs," the diameter of its rims had been changed to lower its height and increase its maneuverability at high speeds, it had an illegally modified air intake system, its catalytic converter had been removed, and there had been "modification of the headers," part of the exhaust system. These modifications increased horsepower and speed.

Fontana Police Captain Dave Faulkner, a traffic collision reconstruction expert, reviewed the investigation file, including diagrams, police reports and photographs, went to the scene and took photographs, and inspected the involved cars. He calculated that the minimum highest potential speed of the Mustang was 77 miles per hour, and could have been as high as 87 miles per hour, and of the Honda was 80 miles per hour, and could have been as high as 86 miles per hour. Based upon damage to the two vehicles, Captain Faulkner believed that, at some point, they had hit each other.

In his report, Captain Faulkner stated that the primary collision factor was attributed to the driver of the Mustang because it was "his impact and his cause that was the direct result of your party's death." "[T]he Vehicle Code and the California reporting system that deals with traffic collision requires [sic] you to pick the one cause." However, he nonetheless opined that both drivers shared the cause of the collision. It was caused by the running of the stop sign by the two cars and their unsafe speed. While he believed that the Honda did not hit the Altima, because there was so much damage from the fire to the back and side of the Altima, "[t]here was no way to tell."

Canizalez's prior dangerous driving

Earlier in the day of the accident, Araceli Mata (Mata) and Jennifer Castro (Castro) saw the red Mustang. Mata was driving north on Parkway Drive when she saw the Mustang driving south at a high rate of speed, near Mountain View High School. She pulled over because the Mustang approached "very fast." As it approached the stop sign, it braked very hard, and Mata heard the screeching of the tires, as it stopped behind another car. Mata later recognized the Mustang involved in the collision as the one she had seen, but she could not identify its driver.

Castro was driving south on Parkway Drive when she saw a red Mustang in front of her and another car in front of it, stopped at the stop sign at Elliott Avenue. Castro heard and smelled the burning of the Mustang's rear tires as she waited and rolled her windows up due to the smoke. After the first car moved, the Mustang made a U-turn and almost struck Castro's driver's side. Castro made eye contact with appellant, who was driving, and said to herself, "You could kill somebody doing this."*fn5 From its shiny rims, she later identified the Mustang involved in the accident as the same Mustang. She identified Canizalez in a photographic six-pack.

DISCUSSION

I. Sufficiency of the evidence

A. Contention

Appellants contend that there is insufficient evidence to sustain their murder convictions. They argue that neither direct perpetrator with implied malice culpability nor aider and abettor culpability based upon the natural and probable consequences theory was established. There was no implied malice "because there was absolutely no evidence introduced on [appellants'] subjective [mental] appreciation of the risk." Simply because "the end result of the race proved to be dangerous to human life cannot serve to satisfy the element of intent . . . ." Appellants further argue that murder is not the natural and probable consequence of engaging in a speed contest, because "[i]f it were probable, or likely to occur, . . . then every act of engaging in a street race would be tantamount to an act of attempted murder, which it certainly is not." This contention is meritless.

B. Standard of review

"In assessing the sufficiency of the evidence, we review the entire record in the light most favorable to the judgment to determine whether it discloses evidence that is reasonable, credible, and of solid value such that a reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. [Citations.]" (People v. Bolin (1998) 18 Cal.4th 297, 331.) All conflicts in the evidence and questions of credibility are resolved in favor of the verdict, drawing every reasonable inference the jury could draw from the evidence. (People v. Autry (1995)37 Cal.App.4th 351, 358.) Reversal on this ground is unwarranted unless '"upon no hypothesis whatever is there sufficient substantial evidence to support [the conviction].'" (People v. Bolin, supra, at p. 331.) This standard applies whether direct or circumstantial evidence is involved. (People v. Catlin (2001) 26 Cal.4th 81, 139.)

C. Direct perpetrator theory of culpability

The prosecution argued and tried the murder charges on both a direct perpetrator with implied malice theory and on an aider and abettor based on the natural and probable consequences theory. With respect to the direct perpetrator theory, appellants argue that their murder convictions are unsupported by the evidence because there was insufficient evidence of implied malice. Morones adds that, as to him, there was insufficient evidence that he caused the victims' deaths, as Canizalez's car, not Morones's, hit the victims' vehicle.

1. Murder with Implied malice

Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. (§ 187, subd. (a).) Malice may be either express or implied. It is express when the defendant manifests "a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature." (§ 188.) It is implied "when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart." (§ 188; People v. Dellinger (1989) 49 Cal.3d 1212, 1217.) Malice should be implied when "'"the killing proximately resulted from an act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous to life, which act was deliberately performed by a person who knows that his conduct endangers the life of another and who acts with conscious disregard for life."'" (Id. at p. 1218.) Implied malice requires that the defendant act with a wanton disregard for the high probability of death (People v. Schmies (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 38, 46, fn. 4), thereby requiring a subjective awareness of a high degree of risk. (People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290, 296.) It is not enough that a reasonable person would have been aware of the risk. (Id. at pp. 296-297.) Malice may be inferred from the circumstances of the murder. (People v. Harmon (1973) 33 Cal.App.3d 308, 311.)

Appellants do not dispute that they were speeding, participated in a street race, and were guilty of vehicular manslaughter. Rather, ignoring a tsunami of contrary circumstantial evidence, they argue that there is insufficient evidence they acted with conscious disregard for life because there is no evidence they were aware of the risk involved in their conduct. They are wrong. That evidence is overwhelming.

Appellants were fully aware of the conditions at the accident scene which would make racing there dangerous. They had long resided at Brookside, within yards of where the fatal crash took place, and inferentially knew the residential nature of the neighborhood, the traffic conditions, caused in part by cars entering and exiting the only exit from the 500-unit Brookside mobile home park onto Elliott Avenue, the presence of a four-way stop sign at Elliott Avenue and Parkway Drive, and the presence nearby of Mountain View High School.

Canizalez was seen driving recklessly in the area just hours before the collision. Castro saw Canizalez's red Mustang headed south on Parkway Drive, stopped at a stop sign at the intersection of Elliott Avenue, where the fatal accident later occurred, burning the Mustang's rear tires and making a precipitous U-turn, almost striking Castro's car. Castro commented, "You could kill somebody doing this." In a second incident that day, Mata saw the red Mustang speeding south on Parkway Drive and being forced to brake very hard at a stop sign, with its tires screeching, in order to stop behind another car. This alerted Canizalez that speeding made stopping difficult and created a dangerous condition.

Appellants' street race was not an isolated, spur-of-the-moment instance of poor judgment. It appears that the Mustang and Honda had been modified to engage in such races, and presumably appellants had done so in the past. Morones's Honda had been illegally "hopped up" so that it had more power and could go faster. It had been lowered "by changing out the coil springs," the diameter of its rims had been increased to lower its height and increase its maneuverability at high speeds, it had an illegally modified air intake system, its catalytic converter had been removed, and there had been "modification of the headers," part of the exhaust system. While the Mustang was too damaged from the collision and fire to allow an analysis of modifications to its engine, the tires and rims were not standard and the wear on the back tire indicated that it had been frequently subject to rapid acceleration.

Before their speed contest, appellants consumed beer and then raced their cars, side by side, on a residential street, reaching speeds of up to 80 to 87 miles per hour, 50 to 60 miles above the speed limit. They ran through a stop sign, which they must have known was there, living just yards away and Canizalez having stopped there just hours earlier, crashing into the Altima and other cars. While a dangerous act may be insufficient by itself to establish that the actor had subjective knowledge of the risk, in situations such as this, it is a relevant consideration.*fn6 As stated by Justice Gilbert in People v. Moore (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 937, 941 (Moore): "Whether Moore was subjectively aware of the risk is best answered by the question: how could he not be? It takes no leap of logic for the jury to conclude that because anyone would be aware of the risk, Moore was aware of the risk."

Echoing this same sentiment here, the trial court aptly pointed out, "[T]hey're engaged in a speed contest--at 80 or 90 miles per hour. How much more knowledge do they need? They've got a thousand--several thousand-pound vehicle that they're running at 70, 80 miles per hour. I mean, what does it take for a person to understand that what they're doing is inherently dangerous to human life?"

Appellants' callous disregard for the safety of others was no more evident than by their conduct after the crash. With Dora and her two children being incinerated in the Altima, appellants showed no remorse or concern. They made no effort to help the victims or even inquire about their condition. Rather, they tried to remove the evidence by pushing the Honda into Brookside. Morones fled to Mexico. Canizalez went to his residence and lied to his brother about the incident and then went back to the accident scene only for the purpose of receiving medical attention. There, he initially denied driving the Mustang and later that he was speeding. Canizalez was heard saying, "[L]ook at his car. [I] crashed [my] car. [My] car is fucked up," and, "I don't give a fuck about those kids. I give a fuck - look at my car. I don't give a fuck about those kids."

This mountain of circumstantial evidence overwhelmingly establishes appellants' subjective awareness of the risk of death that their racing created and their callous indifference to its consequences.

Moore is instructive. In that case, the defendant drove through city streets at excessive speed. He passed one victim going 80 to 90 miles per hour in a 35-miles-per-hour zone. He ran a red light and collided with another car which in turn hit a third car, causing the death of one victim and serious injury to another. The defendant did not get out of his car and check on the victims but continued to drive. When arrested, he claimed that he did not intend to kill anyone and did not experience any mechanical failure, but was simply going too fast. He said that he had no problem leaving the accident scene because the victims were dead. He was going home "'to clean up[,] probably have a beer, sit down, sit at home and watch television.'" (Moore, supra, 187 Cal.App.4th at p. 940.)

On appeal, like appellants here, the defendant conceded that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding of gross vehicular negligence but claimed it was insufficient to show that he had a subjective awareness of the risk for manslaughter. Justice Gilbert rejected this claim stating: "Here Moore drove 70 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone, crossed into the opposing traffic lane, caused oncoming drivers to avoid him, ran a red light and struck a car in the intersection without even attempting to apply his brakes. His actions went well beyond gross negligence. He acted with wanton disregard of the near certainty that someone would be killed." (Moore, supra, 187 Cal.App.4th at p. 941.)

2. Causation

Morones argues that in any event he cannot be liable for murder as a direct perpetrator because there is no credible evidence that his Honda hit the Altima. He argues that, "[T]he weight of the credible evidence supports the conclusion that [Morones's] vehicle passed behind the Altima and impacted Villagrana's car." Only German and Victor testified that he was the first to hit the back of the Altima, but they were 300 to 400 feet away. In opening statement, the prosecutor told the jury that Morones did not strike the Altima and was not involved in that collision but struck another vehicle. The accident reconstruction expert, Captain Faulkner, testified that the cause of the accident was Canizalez's failure to stop at the stop sign, not the racing. Morones contention lacks merit.

It was for the jury, not us, to determine the weight to be given to the testimony of German and Victor, as compared to the testimony on which Morones relies. We simply assess whether there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. There was sufficient evidence here for the jury to find that Morones's Honda hit the Altima. German and Victor, who actually saw the accident, both testified that the Honda was the first car to hit the Altima. Captain Faulkner testified that "there was no way to tell" if the Honda hit the Altima. The testimony of a single witness is sufficient to support a conviction. (People v. Scott (1988) 21 Cal.3d 284, 296 ["The uncorroborated testimony of a single witness is sufficient to sustain a conviction, unless the testimony is physically impossible or inherently improbable"].)

But, even if the jury concluded that Morones's car did not hit the Altima, the evidence was still sufficient to support a finding that he caused the victims' deaths. It is proximate causation, not direct or actual causation, which together with the requisite mental state determines the defendant's liability for murder. (People v. Sanchez (2001) 26 Cal.4th 834, 845 (Sanchez).) Just because the actual cause of death cannot be determined does not undermine a first degree murder conviction. (Ibid.) There may be multiple proximate causes even where there is but one actual cause. (Id. at p. 846.) The People's burden of proving causation is met if evidence is produced from which it may be reasonably inferred that the defendant's act was a substantial factor in producing the result of the crime. (People v. Scola (1976) 56 Cal.App.3d 723, 726 (Scola), cited with approval in People v. Caldwell (1984) 36 Cal.3d 210, 220.) The prosecution does not have to prove to a mathematical certainty that the killing would have occurred absent the defendant's act. (Scola, supra, at p. 727.)

The analysis in People v. Kemp (1957) 150 Cal.App.2d 654 (Kemp), another speed contest case, cited with approval by our Supreme Court in Sanchez, supra, 26 Cal.4th at page 846, is applicable here. Kemp and Coffin engaged in a car race down a public street, resulting in the death of a person driving a car hit by Coffin's car. Kemp, as Morones does here, "'contended that there was no showing of anything attributable to him which was a proximate cause of the death.'" He argued that the mere violation of the Vehicle Code section precluding speed contests could not constitute a proximate cause of death because the death was caused by either the excessive speed or reckless driving of Coffin. The Court of Appeal disagreed stating, "The evidence here strongly indicates that Kemp and Coffin were inciting and encouraging one another to drive at a fast and reckless rate of speed on a residence street and as they closely approached a blind intersection. It was by the merest chance that Kemp was able to avoid hitting the other car, and that Coffin was not. Only the matter of a split second and a few inches made the difference. They were both violating several laws, the acts of both led directly to and were a proximate cause of the result, and the fact that the appellant happened to narrowly escape the actual collision is not the controlling element. The evidence is sufficient to show that they were not acting independently of each other, and that they were jointly engaged in a series of acts which led directly to the collision." (Kemp, supra, at p. 659.)

Canizalez and Morones were similarly jointly engaged in a speed race that led directly to the fatal collision and deaths. Captain Faulkner testified that the cause of the accident was the running of the stop sign by the Honda and the Mustang and their unsafe speed and that both drivers were responsible. Officer Darrell Carter concluded in a report that the primary cause of the collision was street racing. The evidence amply supports that Morones's actions were a proximate cause of the victims' death and that appellants were coperpetrators in the crimes. (See People v. Thompson (2010) 49 Cal.4th 79, 118.)

D. Aiding and abetting on natural and probable consequence theory

Because we conclude that there is sufficient evidence to support both appellants' second degree murder convictions based upon their direct actions with implied malice, we need not consider whether there was also sufficient evidence to support aider and abettor liability on the natural and probable consequences theory.

II. Errors in admission of evidence

A. Gruesome evidence regarding victims' deaths

1. Background

a. Exclusion of gruesome photographs

Before trial, appellants successfully moved to exclude from evidence gruesome and inflammatory crime scene and autopsy photographs, arguing that they were irrelevant, cumulative, and that their prejudice substantially outweighed any probative value under Evidence Code section 352. There was no dispute that the victims died in the crash, to which appellants offered to stipulate. Furthermore, appellants argued that there was no need for the photographs because the medical examiner was going to testify to the victims' injuries, and the accident reconstruction expert was going to testify to the speed of the vehicles.

The prosecutor argued that the jury had "an absolute right to see what happened during this collision," which was the result of appellants' conduct, and the influence on jurors of such photographs "'exists more in the imagination of judges and lawyers than in reality.'"

The trial court found the challenged photographs "horrific" and that their prejudice exceeded any probative value, especially because it was readily apparent from inspection of the vehicle and the vehicle photographs what happened to the victims.*fn7

b. Exclusion of gruesome percipient witness testimony

Later, Canizalez's counsel made an Evidence Code section 402 motion to exclude testimony of percipient witnesses who were going to testify to the "physical changes in the human being while they're being burned." Canizalez's counsel argued that the description of what witnesses saw was "ghastly and terribly graphic," would deprive him of a fair trial and should be excluded under Evidence Code section 352. The trial court stated that it would not restrict any witnesses from testifying to anything that they observed, but told counsel to raise Evidence Code section 352 objections when the witnesses were about to testify.

During trial, disturbing evidence of the victims' deaths was admitted through the testimony of percipient witnesses. There was testimony that while Dora was burning, she attempted to reach out to German and to speak and then placed her hands over her face in pain. Her hair was burned off, and her skin was turning pink and then black, "like chicken on a grill." One witness heard a scream from the car, and another heard the children screaming in the backseat. Over defense's objection that this evidence was cumulative, the trial court allowed the prosecutor to ask the position of the children in the backseat. The witness testified that they "had their arms reached out as if they were reaching toward each other."

c. Gruesome medical examiner's testimony

Dr. Stephen Scholtz, testified regarding the autopsy he performed on Katherine, noting that she had suffered charring to three-fourths of her body, exposing muscle, some bone, the skull and the brain, had a laceration to the spleen, with "free blood" in the abdomen and chest cavities, which was consistent with a collision, had excess fluid in the lungs and soot in her airway, "a sign of the effect of inhalation of smoke," and that charring had caused her windpipe to be exposed. He determined that her death resulted from the "combined effect of the blunt injury and thermal smoke."

Dr. Scholtz also testified regarding the autopsy reports prepared by Dr. Vadims Poukens, who had performed the autopsies on Dora and Robert. Dr. Scholtz testified that Dora's body was charred, exposing her abdominal contents. She died of multiple blunt force trauma, including multiple fractures of ribs, contusions of the lungs, fracture to the spine and pelvis and laceration of the liver, which caused blood to be released into the chest and abdominal cavities. Her death was "not necessarily instantaneous." Robert's skull was charred, exposing brain tissue, ...


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