Doctors weigh in on cause of Copper chef’s death in Sattler trial
June 19, 2015
During a second round of witnesses on Thursday, the prosecution and the defense struggled over whether Blake Bostic's prior health conditions should be admitted as a factor in the trial of Charles Sattler, a 43-year-old man charged with second-degree murder following Bostic's death.
"Charles Sattler acted only to save his friend. He didn't know anyone would die," public defender Stacy Shobe said in an opening statement for the defense on Wednesday. "Mr. Bostic, while he appeared to be a healthy 38-year-old man, had three pre-existing heart defects."
While the defense plans to bring in cardiologist Dr. Brian Stauffer later as a witness to explain the effect of these injuries, the main confrontation during Thursday's session was whether the defense would be allowed to question another witness, Dr. Ben Galloway, on an obstruction in one of Bostic's arteries due to his condition.
Deputy district attorney Rusty Prindle said the defense could not base an argument on this condition, as the defendant "must take the victim as he finds him."
"It is the people's position that just because someone has a pre-existing condition … you can't rely on that as a defense," Prindle said.
Citing 2002 case People v. Fry, public defender Thea Reiff maintained that Sattler only committed second-degree murder if he knowingly caused Bostic's death. At the time of the incident, arrest and interview, Sattler was neither informed that Bostic had died, nor that he had a pre-existing heart condition.
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"Anything that is not outwardly apparent to Mr. Sattler is certainly relevant (to the case)," Reiff said.
"I don't think a person could be expected to know someone's medical history when they just met them in a bar," Prindle retorted, emphasizing that Bostic's heart condition was not relevant to the case.
At first, Judge Karen Romeo granted the people's request, saying that the defense's inquiry of Galloway on the matter of Bostic's heart condition would be limited. She later changed her mind with the presentation of more evidence by the defense.
"Now knowing that it's a secondary opinion from the pathologist, I now know it is relevant and will let you inquire about that," Romeo said. "But, the people were absolutely correct in that you take your victim as you find them."
Dr. Jack Gervais, an emergency physician who was on duty at the time of Bostic's death, was the first witness brought forth by the prosecution on Thursday. However, he said that he was not able to determine the full extent of Bostic's injuries on the morning of April 14, 2014.
"His heart had stopped functioning or stopped beating to supply blood to the rest of the body," Gervais said. "He did not have a palpable pulse. He was being artificially ventilated to help provide oxygen."
In a cross-examination by Reiff, Gervais added that he saw no external signs of trauma on Bostic's chest or head, adding the emergency medical services reported no blood at the scene. He also had no medical record of Bostic's heart condition at the time of the examination.
That morning, Bostic was pronounced dead at 3:20 a.m., after resuscitation efforts had ceased.
Galloway, a forensic pathologist who was brought in later that morning, said he found several injuries on Bostic's neck and brain upon performing an autopsy. While there were few injuries visible from the exterior, aside from a trickle of blood coming from Bostic's nose, he said the internal damage was "severe and very serious."
"You don't see as many fractures as you might expect," Galloway said. "We see much more of this soft-tissue injury."
Upon examination, Galloway said he found a contusion or bruise on Bostic's skull and "multiple areas of hemorrhage" in Bostic's brain, left neck and spinal cord. He also said that Bostic's brain, lungs and heart were swollen significantly, attributing Bostic's heart failure to a pulmonary edema resulting from the trauma inflicted upon his brain.
When asked about the possibility of Bostic's heart condition in contributing to his death, Galloway responded, "I did not think it was a primary cause of death, but it was possible that it could contribute some."
"You don't normally see the swelling that we saw in his brain," Galloway said, adding that several other symptoms of heart failure were missing from Bostic's autopsy.
"Based on my experience in the field of forensic pathology, it was my opinion that (Bostic) died of closed head and neck injuries, secondary to non-accidental blunt force trauma consistent with a fight," he added.
Galloway also noted some tissue damage beneath Bostic's right pinky and ring finger knuckles, indicating trauma in either the form of a punch or a fall. Bostic's ankle was also fractured, he said.
For their final witness, the prosecution presented a videoed interview between Sattler and Frisco Detective Julie Polly a day after the incident. With some disagreements on pieces of unedited bits of the video that would speak to Sattler's character, with mentions of past fights, the defense motioned for a mistrial. Judge Romeo denied the motion, and the court took a recess to review the video to skip any other potentially inadmissible evidence.
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