On the witness stand Friday, Dr. Jeffrey Smith, an associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, added a new layer of jargon to the ever technical Robert Wone murder cover-up trial: “pulseless electrical activity,” aka PEA.

Explaining that PEA is the electrical activity still present “in a dying heart” after a patient no longer has a pulse, Dr. Smith attempted to put a time stamp on Wone’s death, citing autopsy reports and other medical records, as well as prior case testimony.

Prosecutors have alleged that Wone was killed at least 17 minutes before defendant Victor Zaborsky placed a 911 call at 11:49 p.m., giving him and co-defendants Joseph Price and Dylan Ward ample time to get rid of evidence and concoct a story. Price, Ward and Zaborsky are charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection to the mysterious death of their friend Wone, a D.C. attorney who was staying the night in the three housemates’ guest room on Aug. 2, 2006, when he was fatally stabbed. Price also faces charges of evidence tampering.

Testifying for the defense, Smith pointed out, however, that when Wone was loaded into the ambulance that night and hooked up to a cardiac monitor at 11:59 p.m. his body still showed signs of the electrical activity.

That information may be significant because Smith claims that PEA can’t last more than 12 minutes. Smith also asserted that cardiac tamponade, the state Wone’s heart went into after the stabbing, only lasts up to a minute.

That would mean Wone was killed no more than 13 minutes before he was loaded into the ambulance—not much time for the Dupont Circle trio to pull-off the elaborate murder cover-up plot they are accused of.

Both the prosecution and eventually Judge Lynn Leibovitz questioned Smith as to how he could know with certainty that PEA only lasts up to 12 minutes. “How much of a basis do you have for your twelve minute model?” Leibovitz asked “Is there anyplace where the twelve minute number is documented? “

Smith eventually seemed to relent that he couldn’t say with absolute certainty that 12 minutes was the limit : “You’re going to have to take a little bit of a leap of faith…”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery