November 2013- BRONX MAN FOUND NOT GUIILTY OF STRANGLING HIS FATHER TO DEATH
A Bronx Jury returned a verdict of “NOT GUILTY” in fully acquitting a Bronx Man of charges of murdering his own father.
On February 25, 2011, New York City Police Officers responded to a 911 call placed by Kevin Vanderpool, a 40 year old man, indicating that his 75 year old father, Elbert Vanderpool tried to take his own life. Upon arrival at the scene by the NYPD and EMS, they observed Kevin Vanderpool’s father lying unconscious in a fetal position. Elbert Vanderpool was taken to a local Bronx Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival. An autopsy of the deceased at the NYC Medical Examiner’s Office indicates that the cause of death was manual strangulation.
Mr. Vanderpool subsequently told the police that hat his father was attempting to kill himself with a bayonet that the deceased had from the Korean War. Further, Mr. Vanderpool indicated that he tried to stop his father from harming himself at which time his father proceeded to stab Kevin 19 times. Kevin indicated that put his hands on the deceased’s neck to protect himself from his father but did not intend to hurt him.
The prosecution’s theory of the case was that Mr. Vanderpool murdered his own father by strangling him with his bare hands and tried to cover up his crime by stabbing himself with his father’s bayonet. To bolster their theory, the prosecution presented evidence that all of Mr. Vanderpool’s stab wounds were superficial puncture type wounds which the prosecution argued was consistent with self- inflicted injuries which were inflicted after strangling his own father.
Through his masterful cross examination of the NYPD Homicide Squad Detectives, the NYPD Crime Scene Investigation Unit Detective and the Medical Examiner that conducted the autopsy of the deceased, Defense Attorney Troy A. Smith aptly demonstrated that the prosecution’s theory of the case was just that, “a theory” and was not grounded in reality.
Further, Attorney Smith presented complex medical evidence in a plain and understandable manner that succinctly demonstrated to the jury that Mr. Vanderpool did not possess the intent to kill let alone the intent to harm his father. To accomplish this, Attorney Smith retained the services of Dr. Mark Taff, a forensic pathologist and former Chief Medical Examiner in Rockland County. Dr. Taff had performed more than two thousand autopsies during his career and had been published more than 100 times on the subject of forensic pathology to include issues involved in strangulation death. Of significance in the death of Kevin’s father was that the hyoid bone (located in the area of the Adam’s apple) was not broken. Dr. Taff indicated that it would generally take a moderate to severe amount of pressure to the front of the neck to cause a fracture of the hyoid bone. Additionally, Attorney Smith presented medical evidence that the deceased was in poor health as he suffered from heart disease and diabetes. Based on evidence of the father’s poor health, Dr. Taff was of the opinion that it was certainly possible that the moment Kevin placed his hand on the neck of his father and obstructed his airway that his father may have gone into immediate cardiac arrest. Further, Dr. Taff indicated that the deceased’s age, that the hyoid bone in question would be more susceptible to fracture than in perhaps a younger individual in good physical condition. Lastly, Attorney Smith presented evidence that the deceased was taking medications that produced rare side effects such as delusions and hallucinations in elderly sick individuals. Given all of these factors, Attorney Smith brilliantly persuaded the jury in his closing argument that Kevin did not apply significant force around the neck of his father and was thus not trying to kill him or even hurt him.
Lastly, during scathing cross-examination by Attorney Smith, the NYPD Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit Detective testified that he collected the Korean War bayonet from the crime scene and requested that the evidence be examined forensically for fingerprints and DNA analysis. However, the bayonet never made it for forensic testing as the evidence mysteriously disappeared from the evidence safe. An investigation by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau revealed that the bayonet was logged into the NYPD evidence safe but no record existed of the bayonet ever being removed from the safe. Attorney Smith presented evidence that the bayonet in question was a valuable piece of war memorabilia leaving the jury to conclude that perhaps the bayonet was simply lost or more likely that it was stolen from the police safe.
Without any fingerprint or DNA analysis of the handle of the bayonet, the prosecution’s theory that Kevin Vanderpool had stabbed himself to cover up the murder of his father was just that, “a theory” which could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. As Mr. Smith succinctly pointed out in his closing argument: “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY IF THE BAYONET DOES NOT EXIST YOU MUST ACQUIT.”
The jury agreed in finding Kevin Vanderpool “NOT GUILTY.”