EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 3, 2012

Skull fracture killed driver

Murder trial expected to be to jury today


Cannon was the final witness in the prosecution’s case against Lopez, 24, who is charged with Nguyen’s first-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and unarmed robbery, and Ramos, 20, is also charged with unarmed robbery.

One defense witness is expected to testify this morning, followed by closing arguments. Judge David Lowy told jurors yesterday to expect to start deliberating the case today by at lunchtime.

As a medical examiner, Cannon, a doctor since 1980, said she investigates the manner and cause of death, conducting both external and internal exams on a deceased person. Cannon said she found a black and blue on the inside of Nguyen’s right eyelid. She also detected “two distinct areas of trauma” on the right back side of his head and his left temple. The 5-inch fracture was on the right side of his skull, Cannon said.

Prosecutor James Gubitose posted an autopsy picture showing the fracture on a large movie screen set up in the courtroom. Nguyen’s wife and other relatives sat in the gallery behind the screen, but they could not see the picture.

When asked by Gubitose, Cannon said other than the head trauma, there were no other contributing causes to Nguyen’s death.

Under questioning by Jeruchim, Lopez’s defense attorney, Cannon said Nguyen did suffer from cirrhosis of the liver and also had a surgical procedure in his stomach area after suffering from gastric cancer.

Jeruchim also asked Cannon about the presence of benzodiazepines, a prescription narcotic used in Valium, Xanax and sleep aids, that was found in Nguyen’s urine.

Benzodiazepines can effect a person’s protective reflexes and coordination, Cannon said, when questioned by Jeruchim.

However, Lowy had jurors removed from the courtroom, while he questioned the attorneys and Cannon himself about the benzodiazepines issue. Cannon said the narcotic is drug many “take on a daily basis and function” and she did not know if the narcotic was something prescribed to Nguyen or administered in the ambulance after he was injured.

She also said such a “low level” of the drug was found in Nguyen’s urine she did not order further testing.

No further questions about benzodiazepines were asked in front of the jury and Cannon was excused from any further testimony.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.

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