Kelly Thomas comatose with multiple organ failure caused by beating when hospitalized

December 11, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Good morning:

The LA Times is reporting that,

Kelly Thomas arrived at the hospital comatose, with multi-organ failure, multiple fractures to his face and ribs and signs of having suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest, the trauma surgeon who treated him testified Tuesday.

Dr. Michael Lekawa, chief of trauma surgery at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, was on duty the night of July 5, 2011, when Thomas arrived at the hospital after a confrontation with Fullerton police. He died five days later.


The cause of Thomas’ death, Lekawa said, was inadequate oxygen to his brain. During the confrontation with police, “various persons were on [Thomas] and holding him down … preventing him from breathing,” Lekawa said.

“He was doing everything he could to breathe but becoming less and less mentally with it to do what he could to breathe,” he said.
Ultimately, Thomas stopped breathing, which caused his heart to stop, leading to “irreversible brain damage,” he said.

Dr. Lekawa’s testimony illustrates the importance of calling a trauma surgeon to testify regarding cause of death. Medical examiners, who are trained as pathologists, can cover the basics in most homicides, but certainly not all of them, especially when there are potentially competing causes of death.

The testimony of a trauma surgeon was absolutely necessary in Trayvon Martin’s case to testify about the nature and extent of Zimmerman’s claimed injuries.

Perhaps more than any other failure, the prosecution’s failure to call a trauma surgeon, doomed its chances to convict Zimmerman because it opened the door to a host of defense questions for pathologists beginning with, “It’s possible that (fill in the blank). Anything is theoretically possible and pathologists are not qualified to answer those questions because they are not experts in attempting to save the living from dying. Such questions are outside their area of expertise and they should never express opinions in matters beyond their area of expertise.

Fortunately, the prosecution did not make that mistake in Kelly’s case.


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