Maryland chief medical examiner Dr. David Richard Fowler took the stand Wednesday in the sensational trial of three Dupont Circle men accused of conspiring to cover up the 2006 murder of D.C. attorney Robert Wone.
D.C. investigators had asked Fowler to review Wone’s autopsy report, x-rays and crime scene photos. The forensic pathologist, with some 6,000 autopsies under his belt, honed his expertise in Cape Town, South Africa, where “there’s about eight stabbings for every gunshot case,” he said.
On the stand, Fowler commented on the unusual nature of Wone’s wounds, which he described as having an oddly “uniform orientation.” That is, the depth and the angle of all three incisions look fairly identical. “The wound paths are almost parallel,” Fowler said. Prosecutors asked whether Fowler had ever seen cuts so uniform. “Not with this degree of precision,” he said.
Fowler further commented on Wone’s odd lack of defensive wounds. Normally, he said, “you withdraw yourself or, alternatively, you put a part of your body in front of your vital organs.” Investigators found no marks on Wone’s hands or forearms to indicate any resistance to the cuts.
Defendants Joe Price, Dylan Ward, and Victor Zaborsky—each charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence in connection to Wone’s death—have long maintained that an unknown intruder broke into their home at 1509 Swann Street NW and stabbed their friend Wone to death. If that’s the case, prosecutors counter, then why didn’t Wone react to the stranger’s striking blade?
The defense has floated the theory that perhaps Wone may have suffered a cardiac tamponade, resulting in a more instantaneous death than a typical stabbing fatality.
Prosecutors asked Fowler about that specific possibility: “Does [cardiac tamponade] override reflexive movement?” Fowler replied, “No, it does not.” He went to say that Wone “would have been conscious for at least 45 seconds to a minute” after the first cut.
Fowler was also asked his opinion about several needle marks found on the victim’s body. Some of the marks can be explained by paramedics attempting to treat and revive Wone at the scene. But others appeared to have bruising around them, implying that Wone was alive and conscious when the needle went in. Bruises surrounding marks on Wone’s ankle were indicative of such “antemortem” punctures, Fowler said. Prosecutors have suggested Wone may have been drugged prior to his stabbing, hence his non-responsiveness to the cuts.