Medical Experts Testify In Murder Case

MARIETTE, Georgia – The prosecution wrapped up its case Friday against a Georgia couple charged with murdering their son. The boy’s parents worship over the internet at Brentwood Fellowship Church.

It was another emotional day in court, for the parents especially.

Some of the testimony from the stand got graphic as medical experts went back and forth over how they think Josef Smith died.

Graphic testimony caused Sonya and Joseph Smith to break down in court Friday after testimony from the doctor who performed the autopsy on their son.

“I classified it a homicide,” Cobb County Medical Examiner Dr. Brian Frist said on the stand.


Dr. Frist ruled that 8-year-old Josef Smith died from a blow to the head, but it was argued that he didn’t know about the box back in 2003, and for Dr. Steve Dunton that theory changes everything.

“You would then agree, based on the evidence, that the head injury, the bruising on the right side of his head, the blunt-force trauma, caused death in this case?” one of the lawyers asked him.

“I believe that to be true,” Dr. Dunton testified.


Dr. Dunton feels that the prosecution’s theory that Josef was put in this box and suffocated, the medical examiner couldn’t have known that three years ago.


“Unfortunately when someone suffocates it doesn’t leave any physical signs that we can detect in the autopsy. There isn’t any kind of injury on the inside, nothing you can see under the microscope as to what happened,” said Dunton.

With the box theory in the open now, the medical examiner says he still stands behind findings, but admits the box could have played a big role in Josef’s death.

“His body shows acute chronic abuse, but I couldn’t rule out 100% that maybe some asphyxial component was part of the immediate cause of death,” Frist testified.

Dr. Frist says right now he has no plans on changing his ruling in this death. Georgia’s chief medical examiner also took the stand Friday. He has reviewed much of this case, and he just found out about the box this week. He says after learning about this theory, he says that is a good explanation of how Josef Smith died.

The parents say they never put Josef Smith inside the box. In fact, they say the night he went to the hospital, that box wasn’t even in the house.

The trial will continue on Monday when the defense resumes its case to the jury. Members of the church in Brentwood are expected to take the stand early next week.

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Feb. 10, 2007
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This post was last updated: Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 11:34 AM, Central European Time (CET)