CAROTID FIXATION

I have recently received an e-mail inquiry that discussed a topic that has also been touched on in the newsgroup. In the interest of effciency, I here prepare one reply and will send it in two directions. In the newsgroup, it has been mentioned that I appear to have a "carotid fixation," because I assert that Nicole's killer rendered her unconscious by perforating her left carotid artery. This comprises an important step in my scenario, and it is particularly disliked by Simpson haters because it implies a degree of sophistication on the part of the killer that we would not expect from Simpson. I don't think that the e-mail correspondent is a No-J, but that he seems tightly focused on physiological details for their own sake. Nonetheless, he doubts my idea, too, and gives very sophisticated reasons for doing so.

Let us see what the evidence is.

DR. LAKSHMANAN: Although the autopsies were conducted by Dr. Irwin Golden, they were described in the criminal trial by his boss, Chief Medical Examiner for Los Angeles County, Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran. It has been debated -- to little conclusion -- why this switch was made: Political considerations, Courtroom tactics, Dr. Golden's incompetence (as defense attorney Shapiro portrayed him in the preliminary hearing), Golden's poor presentation on the witness stand (his nose timidly in his notes), etc. The fact is that the description in the criminal trial is in Dr. Laksmanan's words, and it is appropriate to look there first.

Late on June 6, Dr. Lakshmanan opined that the "cleanness" of the two major throat slashing wounds indicated that Nicole was unconscious at the time they were administered. Otherwise, her struggling would be reflected in an irregularity of the cut surfaces. In that same session, he said that he believed, on the basis of crime scene photographs as well as the autopsy report, that Nicole's head had been near the ground, the assailant had been behind her, he had hyperextended her throat, and slashed her throat from left to right. Except for the hyperextention of the throat, which I explained in "Blood On the Step, Part III," this opinion is consistent with my understanding. (I have been more specific, and believe because of the crime scene blood patterns that the surface over which this happened was 3 inches from the edge of the first step.)

On June 7, Dr. Lakshmanan described the stab wounds to the neck. There were four of them in a vertical line; the topmost one was three inches below the "external auditory canal" (opening of the ear). Since the distance from there to the shoulder is not more than six inches, the length of the row could not be more than three inches, and I will guess it was two inches. Four deliberate punctures (three of the four were between 1-1/2 and 2 inches deep) in a row and within a two inch length indicate a deliberate and purposeful action. (Also, these were among very few knife wounds to Nicole.) And, what was the purpose? We notice that this is the area through which run the major vessels serving the head: the carotid artery and the jugular vein. In fact, these wounds were in such a position that Dr. Lakshmanan considered that one or more of the wounds could have perforated either or both of these vessels. Unfortunately, Dr. Golden was focused on determining the cause of death, and that obviously was the massive slash wound to the throat, so he did not do dissections to determine whether any of these punctures did perforate the major vessels. But, there is circumstantial reason to think so, as I will mention.

Specifically, he said that Wound #1 (the topmost) was 2" deep, inclined down at a 45 degree angle, sharp edge up, and eventually would have been fatal if it had penetrated a major vessel. Wound #2 was superficial, 1/8" deep. and would not have been fatal. In Wound #3, the killer has twisted his hand and now the blunt edge is to the front, the sharp edge to the back; it was deep, and would have been eventually fatal if it struck a major vessel. Wound #4 was the most serious of the group, 1-1/2" deep, horizontally oriented with the blunt edge to the front; it would eventually have been fatal whether or not it had struck a major vessel. All four were consistent with a single geometry for the killer and victim, but Dr. Lakshmanan could not say whether that was with the two people facing and the knife in the killer's right hand, or with the killer behind the victim with the knife in his left hand. He believed that the victim was partially immobilized during these wounds because they are so closely spaced.

Unfortunately, Dr. Lakshmanan did not discuss the immediate consequences of having the carotid artery seriously punctured, and Dr. Golden did not address the issue in either the grand jury or the preliminary hearing, but Dr. Spitz in the civil trial had some comments that may be illuminating.

DR. SPITZ: This famous forensic pathologist testified on November 8/9 in the civil trial. In talking about the wounds to Ron Goldman, be said that a person can lose consciousness even because of a wound to the jugular vein (much less than to the more critical carotid artery.) He said of the conspicuously bleeding wound to Goldman's jugular vein, "He [Goldman] would lose consciousness very quickly because the brain would not get enough blood. The brain is very susceptible of oxygen deprivation." (He illustrated the point by noting that in some people, upon standing quickly the blood pressure in the brain falls momentarily and causes a dizziness.)

Now, blood comes into the head under pressure via the carotid arteries, and drains back toward the heart via the jugular veins. One would think that if an injury to the drain could cause unconsciousness, an injury to the supply side of the circuit could cause unconsciousness even quicker. On this basis, I believe that a wound to the carotid artery that allows a significant enough flow of blood out of that conduit to cause a fall of blood pressure in the brain will cause unconsciousness.

PURPOSE: I believe that the killer expected this result to a perforation of the carotid artery, and deliberately probed the side of Nicole's neck with the knife tip until he got that result. In the first (topmost) hit, he was careless, and held the knife in a vertical orientation. Since he was probing for a vessel that was itself vertical, this did not allow for any error; he had to strike exactly on the artery. At some time between the first and third hits, he realized his mistake, and twisted the knife horizontal. Now, he could be off in his entry point by a distance of the width of the knife blade, and still penetrate the artery. On the fourth try, I believe it worked, she bled conspicuously from the neck, and became unconscious; he released her, and she fell to the steps.

In the circumstances of the crime we can see reasons for this. The experts agree that at some time, the bruise to the right side of Nicole's head would have caused her to be dazed, but not necessarily unconscious. The defensive wounds to her hands indicate that she was conscious at some time after the attack began, or she would not have taken actions that resulted in these. But at the end, while her throat was being slashed, she was unconscious, Dr. Lakshmanan says. So, at some point she became unconscious. There are two schools of thought about this: Seigler says it was from a hammer blow to the back of her head, I say that it was the result of the perforated carotid artery. (I explain the bruise to the back of her head as being caused when she struck her head upon becoming unconscious. Eventually this would have become a three inch bruise, but her throat was slit within six seconds, blood flow to the head stopped thereupon. and the bruise never grew beyond the one inch stage. He does not explain a reason for four closely spaced punctures over the neck vessels.)

SILENCE: One aspect of the crime that is at least a little disturbing for no-Js is the fact that none of the neighbors heard a victim scream or angry attack barks from the dog, even though two people were murdered with a knife in their midst. Some think that the victims were just not inclined to scream, forgot to do it, or were too embarrassed. Others think that the victims did scream, but nobody heard. However, many people heard the barking dog, eight testified to this, counting Fenjves, Stein, Storfer, Tistaert, Heidstra, Karpf, Schwab, and eventually (after 10:35) even Pilnak. But, none of these people heard a scream. In any other case, it would be quickly agreed that this was an indication that the victims were encountered by surprise, and immediately rendered unable to scream, as by a hand over their mouth (a simple, but effective method.)

If this obvious expedient were used with Nicole, then at some point, she is being kept silent with a hand over her mouth. and at some later time, her throat is being slit. But, during the throat slitting, the knife was in the killer's right hand and he steadied her head with his left hand (Lakshmanan says the killer extended her neck with his left hand.) We know that her head was in some form of control with the killer's left hand, because the very thorough manner of the slashing would have required considerable forces to be applied to the knife, and if the head were not restrained during this it would have flopped around, preventing the clean efficient cuts that were seen.

So, during the throat slashing one hand held the knife, one hand was used to control the head, and there were no hands left over to keep the victim silent. Thus, there was a need to render the victim unconscious before her throat was slashed. The forethought of rendering the victim unconscious before slashing her throat, and also of doing it by perforating the carotid artery imply a crime of considerable premeditation and some planning, which is probably why Simpson critics avoid the subject of the carotid artery.

But, whether one believes these wounds were purposeful or happenstance, they were in the vicinity of the carotid artery very possibly severely perforated it, and if they did, probably caused immediate unconsciousness through loss of blood pressure in the brain. And, since the victim was unconscious when the throat was slashed, it can be expected that they preceded that action, and were the cause of that unconsciousness. So -- whether deliberate, as I think, or not -- it becomes an important part of the scenario, and I have included it. Those who would like to ignore these wounds, it seems to me, should offer an alternate explanation for the unconsciousness, as Seigler has done.

OBJECTIONS: I mentioned that I have seen e-mail objections to the foregoing, and here I present some of those ideas in the possibility that you might think they have more merit than mine. The first expresses doubt that Nicole would be rendered instantly unconscious by a solid perforation of her left carotid artery. It says, "Cutting a carotid artery would not render Nicole instantly unconscious. The reason is the 'Circle of Willis' at the base of the brain which is like a traffic circle. All the arteries from the heart -- the two carotid arteries and the vertebral arteries -- feed into it. The arteries to the brain, in turn, feed off from this circle. The result is that the circle distributes to all the arteries that feed from it blood that is fed into it from different arteries linked to the heart. It's because of this that soldiers in Vietnam suffered no apparent ill effects front having the blood flow from one carotid artery completely cut off for up to one hour (of course, the bleeding had also been quickly stopped, so there would not have been the blood loss Nicole would have suffered, but if only one artery were cut initially, the other arteries would have continued to keep her brain supplied with blood, albeit at an increasingly lower rate). But your claim that she would instantly lose consciousness is absurd."

I did not know about the "Circle of Willis" before, it sounds like a good idea, and I am grateful to be enlightened. But, no matter how many arteries feed the head, and what the circuitry is like after they get there, the fact is that a break to outside of the body in any of them will create an alternate route for blood so that it does not have to flow through the head, and back to the body. This must be manifest as a drop in blood pressure in the brain from what it had been before the failure was suffered. Homey examples are too familiar -- someone turning on the hot water in the kitchen while you are taking a shower, etc.

The claim, "...soldiers in Vietnam suffered no apparent ill effects from having the blood flow from one carotid artery completely cut off for up to one hour..." is somewhat different than the situation on Bundy Drive. I did not claim that unconsciousness would be caused by deprivation of the supply from the left carotid. I realize that greater flow in the right carotid can compensate for it. But, a break in the left artery that causes conspicuous bleeding will cause a local drop in blood pressure in the brain, and that will cause immediate unconsciousness, I claim. My correspondent shows that his example is not such a case when he adds parenthetically, "(... bleeding had also been quickly stopped ... )"; the measures to stop the bleeding also restored the blood pressure.

WHY PROBE THE CAROTID? Then he puzzles over the situation I depicted in "It Ain't the Astrodome" (on our site at http://www.wagnerandson.com ) in which Nicole's assailant, "Gus," is probing for her artery. My correspondent says,

"I can't quite picture the scene you paint of Gus probing Nicole's neck for the carotid artery. Is he doing this from the front, back, sideways -- and why probe for the carotid artery? He practically cut her head off with one swipe, severing both carotid arteries and cutting both veins in the process. Why would anyone able to achieve this bother to probe for the carotid artery? Why would he have to bring Nicole into the light to accomplish it? All he has to do is run the knife across her throat with enough force, and it gets the job done. Do you think that soldiers out to slash throats need the proper light to do it?"

If I believed, as the writer does, that perforating the carotid artery would not induce unconsciousness, I would be as mystified as he, and I would be unable to explain why, when there were so few knife wounds to the victim, four in a very small space were found near over this artery. But I do believe that a solid strike to the artery will cause unconsciousness, I think the killer expected so too, and he probed until he achieved this result.

As to "picturing the scene," I believe that when the killer was probing Nicole's neck, the two of them were near the front gate, just inside it; the killer was behind her with his right hand over her mouth and the knife in his left hand, her face was to the north, though her feet might have been to the east; and his head was bent to the left side of hers to see what he was doing. (See Figure 10:09:30 in the article.) Also, I might point out that "soldiers out to slash throats" are not also trying to frame a specific other person for the act.

DO IT DIFFERENTLY: Like Ron Egan, my correspondent says that if he had planned the crime, he would have done it differently. Egan would not have attacked Goldman east of the gate, this writer would have slit Nicole's throat as soon as he encountered her. (Which, I admit, he was in a position to do.) But, I think Nicole was encountered on the upper walk near the east condo wall. It is a place where there is open space (on the walk) on at least three sides, and good lighting from the porch light just a few feet away. Part of the plan was to frame Simpson by causing him to visit the scene of the crime to retrieve the incriminating right hand glove. And, while there, track in Nicole's spilled blood. If she was slain on the upper walk, there would be later directions of approach that would not require stepping in blood, and lighting sufficient that such an accident would not occur.

Also, the more time and activity was spent on the upper walk was more chance that a sound would escape which would bring the dog sleeping in the children's room, and thereby complicate the whole process. And, by killing Nicole on the upper walk, there occur two distinct locales of killing, no overlap of the blood evidence, and more chance that an investigator would realize the truth. So, there are several solid reasons for not completing the crime at the site of the first encounter.

As Ron Egan correctly points out, once the attack has begun, the victim will duck their head (if they are conscious) and make more difficult an attempt to slash their throat. For this reason, and also to keep the victim from screaming while the final preparations for throat slashing required both of the killer's hands, it was necessary to render Nicole unconscious just before the end.

AT END: My correspondent is scornful that I would even consider understanding the crime when I am not acquainted with arcane concepts such as the "Circle of Willis." He says, "Your public on the ng will no doubt heap ridicule on the scenario without having the slightest idea what's really wrong with it because they know little more than you do about the actual injuries of the victims."

So, I lurch along, doing the best I can; I guess you ("my public") do too. (I have not seen that this correspondent has the guts to present a specific concept of the crime to me, much less in public, as to the news group. I have found that to do so humbles one's arrogance just a bit.)

Dick Wagner • Van Nuys, CA (4/30/99) NG_543

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