OSSIPEE — The state’s chief medical examiner will be able to testify about her conclusions regarding the distance from which a man was fatally shot and regarding the position the victim could have been in when the handgun was fired.
Ann Marie Sargent, 70, of Effingham, is charged with alternate counts of manslaughter and negligent homicide. She is accused of bringing a loaded .38 caliber handgun to a confrontation with Robert Dishman, also of Effingham, on Nov. 28, 2016. The gun was discharged and Dishman, 63, was struck in the chest and subsequently died.
Defense Attorney Caroline Smith had challenged the findings of Dr. Jennie Duval, arguing that Duval’s conclusions were faulty because she is not an expert in ballistics and did not conduct any ballistic testing. Smith also argued that the pathologist had insufficient evidence regarding the decedent’s arm span to draw the conclusions that she did.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Carroll County Attorney Keith Blair.
A settlement conference was held on Sept. 25, before Judge Peter Fauver, and a second is to be held on Oct. 23.
Jury selection is scheduled for Nov. 18.
During an Aug. 21 evidentiary hearing in Carroll County Superior Court, Duval testified that when she conducted the autopsy, she examined the victim’s body and his clothing.
According to her testimony, she took X-rays to discern bullet fragments and looked for gunshot residue on and in the wound and on his clothing which she examined with the naked eye and under a microscope. She said she looked for “stippling” or “tattooing” of the skin caused by the gunpowder. Because there was no gunshot residue, stippling or tattooing present, she concluded the shot was fired from a distance of 2 feet or more, she said.
Under questioning by Smith, Duval agreed the distance could have been slightly more or slightly less than 2 feet, but that she could not be more precise as she had not performed ballistics testing and did not know the results of any ballistics testing that may have been done. She testified she never conducts ballistics tests as that is not her area of expertise, nor is she routinely informed of ballistics test results when doing an autopsy.
Smith asserted that in order for Duval to develop a reliable scientific opinion she would need to know how long the victim’s arms were, if he had been in a lunge position with his arms wrapped around the gun when it discharged. Smith also argued that Duval did not consider the amount of gunshot residue deposited by this specific gun and ammunition on the clothing or body at the distance calculated for the reach of the decedent.
In a four-page ruling, Judge Amy Ignatius found there was no basis to preclude Duval’s testimony.
Ignatius held that the issues raised by the defense can be the topic of cross examination before the jury.