Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mendel Beilis -- The Doctors

This is the summary of the 20th day of the Mendel Beilis trial, which occurred on 14 October, 1913 on the Julian calendar, 27 October, 1913 on the Gregorian calendar.

This day occupies pages 142 through 169 of Volume II of the transcript.

 See the translation of testimony for day 20.


Here begins the testimony on the ritual murder charge.  The setup that comes out over the next three days is this.  After the first autopsy on 22 March, the government sent Kosorotov to Kiev.  Kosorotov had a new autopsy report written on 26 March.  Ostensibly Tufanov was involved in the autopsy, but eventually he will admit that he didn’t look at the body.  Dr. Obolonsky, who died in 1912, was the other prosector on 26 March, but his individual report has significant errors.  Kosorotov finally admits that he was there, and that what is in the report reflects what the handbook of forensic medicine authorizes prosectors to say when they testify in court.  Kosorotov believes that this authority supersedes the need to actually eyeball the body being autopsied.  I’m not a prosector so I don’t know what the rules in America are, but as far as I can make out from what he’s saying – while he happens to be in a state that apparently is near hysteria – that is what he means.

Gruzenberg immediately notices a problem with the photograph of the corpse.  The date is 23 March, but the autopsy report from the day before that says the top of the skull was removed and sent for examination.  The photo shows a whole skull.  The answer is, first, that some other corpse’s skull top was substituted for purposes of the funeral.  The second answer is that the photos weren’t taken by a forensic photographer; they were taken by Dr. Tufanov, the prosecutor, as a private individual.

The problem is that at the time he took the pictures, Tufanov had not been assigned to the second autopsy team.  What’s more, the forensic investigator was not present when the pictures were taken, and neither were any witnesses.  Finally, the photos were not submitted to the forensic investigator for examination and they were not attached to the case as being relevant, nor do the files contain a record of their examination.   Under these conditions the photos should have been rejected as inadmissible evidence.

Notice that the second autopsy in some places uses metric measurements and in others uses something called poperechny palets, a phrase I can’t find anywhere.  Maybe it means a finger’s width.  That’s extremely imprecise and should never be used in a scientific investigation.  Russia didn’t formally adopt the metric system until 1924, but obviously medical personnel used it.  The first autopsy does. 

Notice that both autopsies find over 40 injuries and neither one identifies which of them are copies of the stigmata; in particular, the hands and feet were not injured at all.  If Archimandrite Ambrosius was right, this was not a ritual murder.  Notice the statement about 13 injuries to the right temple (statement 303).  This contradicts Pranaitis’ later statement that the wounds have to be in the neck, and if Pranaitis is right, this is not ritual murder.  Furthermore, Gruzenberg will point out later that there are actually 14 wounds in the neck.

Also notice that the examination of the internal organs signed by Obolonsky and Tufanov is an exact copy, except for one numeral, of the report signed by Karpinsky. 

Dr. Pavlov, with 47 years of surgery and teaching behind him, makes a reasonable request based on his experience.  Doctors always compare the positive print with the negative.  Prints may include a smaller area and miss what’s on the edges of the negative; they are prone to mistakes of printing including dust and weak chemicals, as well as flaws in the paper.  So  Dr. Pavlov asks that they be allowed to see the negatives the way they do in practice, even with X-rays.  "Then this would be complete expertise,” he says.  But he doesn’t realize that the court doesn’t want real expertise, it just wants a rubber stamp of what it plans to present as proven.  So the request is denied. 

Vipper’s first tactic today is to pretend that the experts have provided exhaustive conclusions and therefore few questions will be needed.  However, the only conclusions provided to date went to the forensic investigator, Mashkevich, more than a year ago.  The experts did not have before them the actual photos and specimens, as will be shown when the judge tells the medical personnel to start studying them as a basis for their remarks.  The result of Vipper’s tactic would be to hold to year-old conclusions that have nothing to do with the information generated during the “witness to fact” phase of the trial.  Thus the conclusions can be – and will prove to be – false because they are ill-informed. 

The defense, once again, is actually trying this case instead of just standing there for window-dressing, and they intend to treat all experts alike.  This will turn out to be devastating for the prosecution because the judge will refuse to let the attorneys argue against the information presented.  Boldyrev only lets them ask the experts to clarify.  The only true opposition to one “expert” witness is the statement of another “expert” witness.  The attorneys will have to try to get the experts to talk down for the muzhiks on the jury who at best have sixth grade educations, not tell the experts that they have misstated something.  So the prosecution cannot argue with the experts they believe favor the defense, and they will be caught in the trap they think they have set to ruin the defense case.

Archimandrite Ambrosius’ deposition opens with the fact that he is reporting, not eyewitness accounts, but anecdotal evidence which was taught to two Jewish cantonists after their conversion to Orthodoxy.  Of course, the Jews would not teach such things.  Journalist Vladimir Bonch-Bruevich, in his 1919 book, claims that the Orthodox church did not teach about ritual murder, but these two cantonists could have obtained the information no other way and throughout the trial, Russian Orthodox priests preached against Beilis, according to the American Jewish Yearbook. 

Notice that the court waited from March to November to take samples of wallpaper from Cheberyak’s apartment.  In the meantime, she had washed the carpet; are you telling me she didn’t also wash the walls in the 4 ½ months before she was evicted?  And then did the apartment stay empty for three more months, losing money for Zakharchenko the whole time?  I believe on day 17, Balavin said a Loshkarev moved in and I believe his description suits the idea that he took the Cheberyaks’ place.  At any rate, I don’t believe that the apartment walls remained uncleaned the whole time.  Or that damp and other effects wouldn’t make the marks fade.  Spectrographic analysis of blood goes back at least to 1892, according to my research, but the test description is general.  Given other results later on this day, we cannot be sure all possible tests or even those most likely to produce results were run.

Judge:  Fyodor Boldyrev

            Criminal Prosecutor, Oscar Vipper
            Civil Prosecutor Georgy Zamyslovsky
            Private Civil Prosecutor Aleksey Shmakov

            Oscar Gruzenberg
            Nikolay Karabchevsky
            Dmitry Grigorevich-Barsky
            Alexandr Zarudny
            Vasily Maklakov

Archimandrite Ambrosius
Testified by deposition
Zhenya Cheberyak
Autopsy report
Zhenya’s doctor
Testified by deposition
Nikolay Aleksandrovich Krasovsky
Scolded about rumors of poison he helped spread
Andrey’s first autopsy
Andrey’s second autopsy
Photographs discussed
Vera’s carpet record of examination
Second parts report
Identical to first


© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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