9.20.2007

ER - Woman's injury likely not caused by fall, expert says

Woman's injury likely not caused by fall, expert says
by Heather Muller , 9/19/2007

In the second day of testimony in the trial of a man accused of attacking his ex-girlfriend, the neurosurgeon who treated the young woman said he did not believe her injuries were consistent with a fall.

Dr. John Aryanpur was called by the prosecution to bolster its contention that Dallas Achane, 22, physically assaulted Erica Fike, 19, late on the night of May 27 in front of Fike’s former F Street residence in Eureka.

Fike was left with what Aryanpur repeatedly characterized as a “serious” injury, which included a fractured skull and a small amount of blood pooling on her brain and in her ear.

Medical experts will likely play a pivotal role in Achane’s trial because none of the witnesses called to date saw Fike sustain the head injury, and Fike herself testified that she has few memories of the incident.

Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin said in his opening statement Tuesday that Achane inflicted Fike’s injury, while defense counsel Jennifer Dixon argued Fike fell and struck her head while backing away from Achane.

Aryanpur all but ruled out a simple fall.

“In my opinion,” he said, “it’s unlikely it would be consistent with a fall.”

Aryanpur noted that Fike was young, agile and without any known previous neurological impairment. A person in her condition, he said, would typically attempt to break her fall, but there was no evidence that she did so.

He testified that there were no abrasions on her hands or elbows — but said there was a contusion above her left eye that he characterized as possibly consistent with blunt force.

“Was it consistent with a punch?” McLaughlin asked.

“Could be, yes,” Aryanpur replied.

The defense has also repeatedly questioned whether Fike was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a suggestion that appeared to be supported by a handwritten annotation on a hospital evaluation form.

A nurse reportedly wrote “ETOH on board” across the top of the paper, meaning that the nurse believed Fike was under the influence of alcohol.

But Aryanpur disagreed with the nurse’s assessment, saying it was “not uncommon” for the symptoms of brain trauma to be confused with alcohol impairment.

“My suspicion is that’s what occurred here,” he said.

Jennifer Fike, the alleged victim’s 22-year-old sister, testified earlier that the sisters and two friends smoked marijuana approximately two hours before the incident occurred.

The trial is in recess until Monday, when a medical expert called by the defense will appear during what may be the last day of proceedings before the case is sent to the jury.

Achane has pleaded not guilty to an enhanced charge of assault resulting in great bodily injury and an additional charge of battery causing injury.

Copyright (C) 2005, The Eureka Reporter. All rights reserve

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