by Max Brantley
The state completed presenting its case this morning in the capital murder trial of Curtis Vance for the 2008 slaying of KATV anchor Anne Pressly.
After a brief recess following the last state witness, parties returned to the court briefly and the state officially rested. At that point, Pressly's mother, Patti Canady, broke down in tears and friends clustered around her. The defense will be called at 1 p.m. It's uncertain what witnesses, if any, it has planned.
The last prosecution witness was Dr. Stephen Erickson, deputy chief medical examiner for Arkansas. He described Pressly's autopsy. He said injuries were more akin to those seen in car accidents than from blunt trauma. He said she was struck repeatedly with a blunt, heavy object, probably an elongated object made of metal or hard wood.
The blows fractured almost every bone in her face. She was hit hard enough in the jaw, that it pushed her jawbone enough to fracture her skull from ear to ear. That cut off blood flow to her brain, which began to die from lack of oxygen, Erickson testified.
He said that on Oct. 25 her brain was swollen to the point that it cut off all blood flow and she was declared brain dead. Bones in her face were shattered to the point that they made “crunching sounds” during the autopsy. Jurors were shown photographs of the body during the autopsy, a sight that prompted several members of the jury to look away.
There were injuries to Pressly’s vagina and anus – stretches and lacerations – consistent with sexual assault, he said.
The doctor talked, too, about defense wounds to Pressly’s hand, which was broken in several places. She also had a large bruise on her left shoulder.
Defense lawyer Katherine Streett asked if vaginal injuries could have been caused by hospital procedures. Erickson said it was his opinion that they were caused by sexual assault.
She also questioned Ericson to show the crime lab no longer had accreditation from a national agency, a subject of recent news reports. He said that stemmed from a lack of time to do the paperwork necessary for the accreditation and he said the agency was working to correct that.
UPDATE: The defense case opened with testimony drawn from a crime scene investigator that no blood was found in Vance's car. But the investigator, on cross-examination, also said no blood was found outside Pressly's bedroom in her house.