PLATTSBURGH — Closing arguments are in process this afternoon in Kathryn Shoemaker's murder trial for the August 2009 death of Ravin Miller.
The defense called its second and final witness Monday morning when Dr. Thomas Andrew took the stand and told jurors about what he feels was a previously unmentioned and possible alternative mechanism of Miller's death.
Last week, a prosecution expert pathologist testified that Miller died by asphyxia due to strangulation and deemed the death a homicide.
In court Monday, Andrew agreed with those findings but said Miller's death could have involved a sudden cardiac inhibition, meaning pressure on Miller's neck could have resulted in immediate death, rather than by prolonged force like the prosecution has asserted.
"I can't rule that out, and I don't think the autopsy can rule that out," Andrew said.
A sudden cardiac condition of that kind would not be detected during an autopsy, he said, one that rarely happens.
Prosecutors believe Shoemaker intentionally strangled Miller and staged his death to look like a suicide to prevent him from reporting her alleged theft of $35,000 from him.
She has alleged that Miller, 51, of Clinton died by suicide after becoming despondent about a failed relationship.
The defense has also asserted that Miller voluntarily gave Shoemaker the money, as they were both friends and business partners, starting a trucking business together.
Andrew also said that neither he, nor any other pathologist, can determine if a death is intentional.
But, during subsequent questioning by District Attorney Andrew Wylie, Andrew also concluded that Miller's manner of death was a homicide, regardless of whether the cardiac condition was a factor.
"So he died at the hands of another person?" Wylie asked.
"Correct," Andrew said.
MEETING IN CHAMBERS
Andrew also agreed that Miller's wrist laceration was superficial and inflicted by someone else after his death.
He also described a lack of defensive wounds on the man's neck, which the prosecution pathologist said would not be uncommon in a rear strangulation attack, which is suspected in Miller's case.
In light of the supposed lack of defensive wounds, Shoemaker's attorney Gregory LaDuke asked Andrew whether any other factors could have caused Miller's strangulation death.
To the audible disagreement of Miller's family and friends seated in the courtroom, Andrew said it was possible that deep neck bruising was a voluntary sexual injury.
It was the first time that possibility was alluded to in trial.
At the prosecution's request, the final question and answer prompted both attorneys to meet with Judge Kevin Ryan privately in the judge's chambers.
They emerged about 20 minutes later, when both sides indicated they were finished with Andrew's questioning.
Following closing arguments, the jury will be instructed on the legal definitions of the charges.
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