Evidence on Furlong killing 'ambiguous'
A forensics expert in the trial of Richard Hinds has disputed evidence of how the American musician allegedly strangled Wexford exchange student Nicola Furlong.
Mr Hinds (19) is on trial for murdering Ms Furlong at a Tokyo hotel last May.
On Tuesday, a forensic doctor for the prosecution told Tokyo District Court he believed the Irish woman was probably throttled with a towel. However, Dr Marianne Hamel, a forensic pathologist from Pennsylvania, yesterday called the evidence for that “ambiguous” and said it was not possible from photos taken during the postmortem to prove how Ms Furlong was strangled.
The pathologist said a struggle to pull away such an object during strangulation would also normally leave more marks around the neck where the fingernails had caught, and blood and skin tissue under the victim’s nails.
Dr Hamel’s evidence could be important because the use of a rolled-up towel indicates a higher level of intent and could influence sentencing.
The prosecution repeated the assertions of their expert, Dr Kenichi Yoshida, that postmortem photographs indicated a “band-like object” had caused her injuries.
Dr Hamel also said the effect of alcohol mixed with Alprazolan, the active ingredient in the stress-reducing drug Xanax that had been prescribed for Ms Furlong, was “like being very, very drunk”.
The defence has sought to paint a narrative of heavy drinking on the night Ms Furlong died and suggested that the combination of drink and Xanax caused her death. Dr Yoshida testified on Tuesday that both were irrelevant.
Dr Hamel, however, said she had found “no major mistakes” in Dr Yoshida’s report and agreed that the victim had been strangled over “several minutes”.
Mr Hinds’s mother Vivian and his brother Claude sat in court yesterday, a few metres from the Furlong family. The Hinds have declined to speak to reporters.
The court also heard a defence statement from a musician friend of Mr Hinds, known by his stage name D-Mac, who said he had called his room at the Keio Plaza Hotel on May 24th and was surprised when a “very drunk”- sounding female answered the phone.
He said Mr Hinds described how the woman had blacked out following sex. Mr Hinds later returned the call to say that the woman was unconscious.
The statement said D-Mac, who was touring Japan with Mr Hinds, rushed to the room and, thinking Ms Furlong was just unconscious, had tried to wake her up using a towel soaked with cold water.
The trial continues.