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Graphic Testimony in Klaas Trial Forces Family Out of Court

May 07, 1996|From Associated Press

SAN JOSE — A doctor who performed the autopsy on the body of Polly Klaas testified Monday to the pitiful state of her remains, a litany of horrors that sent her family fleeing from the courtroom.

Later in the day, three jurors wept as they looked at photographs of Polly's small, headless body, partially clad in a child's flannel nightgown.

Others grimaced and appeared to be fighting for control.

The photographs were not displayed to the courtroom audience, but prosecutor Greg Jacobs said they showed the decomposed body, which had lain in a field for about two months.

Earlier, the doctor who performed the autopsy, A.J. Chapman, had testified about the extent of decomposition.

Parts of the body were mummified; others were reduced to the skeleton, Chapman said.

The testimony, delivered in a matter-of-fact monotone, proved too much for the 12-year-old's family.

Her father, grandfather and grandmother left the courtroom shortly after Chapman began talking, with her grandmother B.J. Klaas blinking back tears.

Outside the courtroom, Polly's father, Marc Klaas, said he could not listen to the details of his daughter's fate.

"This is terrible stuff. My Lord, I've got . . . an image of Polly in my mind and I can't let that go. I can't let that go," he said.

Chapman said the state of the body made it impossible to determine the exact cause of death. But he said pieces of cloth and rope found in her hair, each tied into loops approximately 3 inches in diameter, indicated she was strangled.

Chapman spoke at length on the process of decomposition and how the presence of animals and insects can affect it.

He said because of the decay it was impossible to detect the presence of semen. "There was no identifiable remnant of any organ," he said.

The question of whether or not defendant Richard Allen Davis sexually molested Polly has become a key issue in a trial where the defense has already conceded Davis committed the crimes he's been charged with.

But defense attorney Barry Collins maintains there is no evidence he molested her.

Davis is not charged with sexual assault but with an attempted lewd act on a minor. Even without that charge, he could face the death penalty, but it is believed the sex charge could have an emotional impact on jurors.

Outside the courthouse, prosecutor Greg Jacobs said he did not think the lack of forensic evidence damaged his case. He said proving an attempted lewd act does not require such evidence.

Chapman said the body was found with the legs splayed apart and clothing pushed above the waist.

Davis, a career criminal who had been paroled from his latest prison term in June 1993, led police to the body Dec. 4, 1993.

Jurors have already seen the videotaped interview Davis gave before taking police to the body, and they have heard audiotapes made during the actual trip.

Monday, they watched the videotape of police interviewing Davis after finding the body.

As in the previous interviews, Davis said he was high on alcohol and drugs the night of the Oct. 1, 1993, kidnapping and remembers little. He also said he was acting alone and did not know Polly or any of her family.

"No decent people don't want to know me," he said.

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