When crime scene photos are too gory
Sometimes, it appears, crime scene photos can be too gory even for prosecutors who want to convince jurors that someone is a cold-blooded killer. An example arose recently when Montgomery County prosecutors explained a strategy employed during a murder trial.
At issue was what happened to Lila Meizell, an 83-year-old woman killed by a man who had worked in her yard in Wheaton.
He barged into her home, slammed her head repeatedly against the wooden portion of a sofa, doused her with gasoline and lit her on fire. During the man's trial last month, prosecutors showed relatively staid black-and-white autopsy photos, holding back on color ones that showed how terribly Meizell had been burned.
"The cause and manner of death were not contested," Montgomery County Deputy State's Attorney Laura Chase explained. "And the (color) pictures offered no additional evidence for us. We may have even offended the jury by introducing them."
Had she tried, of course, defense attorneys might have blocked the effort. The emotion induced by color photographs of Meizell's body was evident when the defendant, Ramon Alvarado, appeared in court again Monday.
Hoping to convince Circuit Judge Terrence McGann to impose a stiff sentence, Assistant State's Attorney Mary Herdman showed him two of the color pictures. McGann looked them over from the bench, and told the defendant how they were even worse than the ones from the trial.
"The autopsy pictures of Lila are grotesque, unrecognizable and very difficult to view," he said. "And I'm talking about the autopsy pictures that were in black-and-white. These other ones are totally repulsive."
McGann sentenced Alvarado to life without the possibility of parole. He closed the hearing this way:
“I’m going to put these in the envelope so they don’t turn anyone else's stomach. This court will stand in recess.”
-- Dan Morse
November 25, 2009; 10:12 AM ET
Categories: Dan Morse , From the Courthouse , Homicide , Montgomery
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