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The Wrongful Conviction of Anthony Broom

Around 10:00 a.m. the morning of June 24, 1981, the State Pathologist, Dr. Youngs performed the autopsy on Charlotte’s body.  The autopsy report states Charlotte died of a gunshot wound to the left temporal scalp.  There was no evidence of foul play – no broken nails and no evidence of tissue underneath her nails.  Her lips were bruised; however, this is consistent with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, as there was no evidence of torn tissue on the inside of her mouth that would have resulted from a blow from a fist or hand.  Dr. Youngs found evidence of recent sexual intercourse, due to the presence of spermatozoa and a positive acid phosphatase reaction.  Most importantly, Dr. Youngs examined Charlotte’s left hand and found stippling, which are powder burns resulting from the discharge of a firearm. 

Dr. Youngs was the state expert and had examined over 100 deaths by gunshot injury.  He knew without a doubt what stippling looked like.  Stippling is unburned powder that penitrates the skin from the gun blast and can still be seen with the soot wiped away.  The stippling was found on the back side of Charlotte’s left hand, near the knuckles of the index and middle fingers.  Dr. Youngs testified that the number of particles on the deceased’s hand was significantly less than what appeared surrounding the head wound. Dr. Youngs provided two examples of how this stippling could have gotten on the deceased’s hand.  He stated that either her hand was interposed between the barrel of the gun and the skin or by actually discharging the weapon herself. 

Per Dr. Youngs’ testimony, there is a stronger argument for the latter, the fact that the deceased fired the weapon herself.  Dr. Youngs’ report states the gun was discharged at a close range, due to the presence of stippling surrounding the wound.  Dr. Youngs’ testimony of the wound is as follows:  “The gunshot wound itself was rounded; the entrance gunshot wound was six millimeters in diameter and surrounding that there was a zone, a rounded zone of stippling of the skin and swelling and bluish discoloration or bruising.”  Further, “…stippling is the presence of fine punctuate indentation of the skin…Stippling in relation to gunshot wounds of this kind is a result of burning of the skin by residues of gunpowder”.  Stippling surrounding the wound would indicate, per Dr. Youngs that the gun was fired at close range.  Had Ms. Martz’s hand been between the barrel of the gun and the skin, the “rounded zone” he referred to in his testimony would not have been rounded, but partially disturbed by the section that was covered by her hand.  Additionally, had her hand been interposed between the barrel and the skin, her hand would have had a greater amount of stippling on it, like the wound, itself, had around it.  Therefore, this leaves only Dr. Youngs’ theory that the deceased was holding the gun when it went off.

The cause of death is a single gunshot wound to the head.  The manner of death, homicide, suicide or accident, is unknown, per Dr. Youngs autopsy report.