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Doctors Clash As Witness Testimony Ends

By Lou Raguse

Both sides in the Daphne Wright murder trial finished presenting evidence without the defendant taking the stand. But a key witness for the defense, a forensic pathologist from Rapid City, gave the jury a second-opinion on how Darlene VanderGiesen died.

Minnehaha County Coroner Dr. Brad Randall did the autopsy and determined Darlene VanderGiesen died as a result of a skull fracture, suffocation, or both.

But Dr. Don Habbe, who does autopsies in Rapid City, reviewed pictures and the autopsy report and gave a second opinion that helps the defense.

The prosecution’s theory is that Daphne Wright hit Darlene VanderGiesen on the head several times, then put a clear plastic bag over her head to make sure she died.

Coroner Dr. Brad Randall’s testimony yesterday backed up that theory.

But Habbe disagrees. Habbe testified that since there was no bleeding on VanderGiesen’s brain, the woman died instantly when receiving the skull fracture.

“In your opinion, is there any other injury other than the injury to the head that occurred pre-death?” Wright’s attorney Jeff Larson asked.

“No,” Habbe answered.

Wright’s lawyers allude that VanderGiesen died from an accidental fall down the stairs, hitting her head on a pillar on the way down. If Habbe’s analysis is correct, that could mean Wright did not murder VanderGiesen – even if she put a bag over the woman’s head then went on to cut her apart.

So State’s Attorney Dave Nelson recalled Randall to the stand.

Randall stood by his testimony and added that, despite the lack of bleeding to the brain, there was significant bleeding in the tissue and muscle underneath the scalp. That would suggest VanderGiesen did not die immediately, because a person doesn’t bleed if the heart isn’t beating.

Both sides are done calling witnesses, so closing statements will begin Wednesday morning. Then the case will be in the jury’s hands. If the jury finds Daphne Wright guilty, the death penalty phase of the trial would then begin.

(( Source:  KELOLAND TV ))