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The Kristine Fitzhugh Case

Last Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2001, 5:10 p.m.

Medical examiner: Kristine Fitzhugh's death no accident
Defense objects to 'blood splatter' testimony

by Bill D'Agostino

According to the chief medical examiner for Santa Clara County, Kristine Fitzhugh was killed in the kitchen, and her body was placed in the basement to make it look like she had fallen.

Medical examiner Greg Schmunk testified today in the trial against Kenneth Fitzhugh, accused of killing Kristine Fitzhugh, his wife of 33 years, a schoolteacher and mother of two. His opinion was based on a number of factors, the most contentious being the amount of "blood splatter" he discovered in the kitchen and subsequently did not find in the basement. Schmunk generally defined blood splatter for the jury as the wet blood that comes off the weapon or victim as the two impact each other.

Defense Attorney Thomas Nolan, who had never spoken to Schmunk about the case despite the examiner's open door policy, seemed shocked by the medical examiner's opinions in court, especially in regards to the "blood splatter." Nolan strongly objected to much of the testimony on the basis of the medical examiner's credentials, arguing that Schmunk he didn't have the expertise necessary to discuss splatter in court. The majority of those objections were overruled by Judge Franklin Elia, who at many moments seemed to tire of Nolan and Deputy District Attorney Michael Fletcher openly arguing in open court.

Schmunk also gave his opinion about the nature of Kristine Fitzhugh's injuries. He said Fitzhugh received seven blows to the back of the head, and an uncountable number of blows to the front. Schmuck stated his belief that the object that struck her in the back was something like the side of a chair or a two-by-four piece of wood, but could not be more specific since no murder weapon was ever found by police. Schmunk also said that Kristine Fitzhugh had been strangled by her assailant, and that the two acts combined to cause her death.

Cross-examination of Schmunk continues tomorrow morning in Palo Alto court.




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