Expert says Collins’ wounds not self-inflicted
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent February 14, 2011 4:40PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
A forensic pathologist testified Monday that a Hammond woman’s knife wounds on her left arm and other injuries occurred as she tried to defend herself in an altercation with another person.
Defense witness Dr. Daniel Spitz, a board-certified forensic pathologist who has testified about 200 times as an expert witness, said injuries Athena Collins had on Aug. 5, 2008, appeared to be defensive wounds.
Collins, 53, is raising self-defense and battered women’s syndrome claims during her murder trial before a six-woman, six-man jury in the courtroom of Lake Superior Court Judge Clarence Murray. Collins is charged in the shooting death of her husband, McKinley Collins, who was shot six times at Athena Collins’ home at 7322 White Oak Ave., Hammond.
Questioned by defense attorney Catherine Lake, Spitz said he reviewed photographs of the scene and Collins’ injuries, police reports, court records, Collins’ statements to police and testimony and a report by Dr. John Pless, a forensic pathologist who provided an opinion to prosecutors in the case. Spitz said he also reviewed McKinley Collins’ autopsy report and photographs.
Spitz said he disagreed with Pless’ opinion that Collins’ injuries most likely were self-inflicted.
Spitz, who serves as chief medical examiner in Macomb and St. Clair counties in Michigan and who consults as a forensic scientist with “CSI” and “Bones,” has published two books and 40 articles.
Deputy prosecutor Evelyn Scott used a chapter on sharp force injuries from a book he co-edited with his father to question him about Collins’ injuries. Three cuts on the inner part of Collins’ left forearm went into the subcutaneous or fatty layer of the skin and required stitches. In the section dealing with self-inflicted wounds, Spitz acknowledged that two of the cuts were close together, appeared to be parallel and were on her non-dominant side — all possible signs of self-inflicted wounds. Collins is right-handed.
“The injuries to me as a whole indicate an altercation,” Spitz said. He also rejected the idea that Collins may have pulled out or cut off eight braids herself.
While Spitz described as a laceration a mark on Collins’ forehead, which she said was from her husband hitting her with an iron, medical records from Saint Margaret Mercy Hospital indicated it was a contusion or bruise.