A Closer Look

Revisiting the evidence

We are aware that there are many aspects to be considered in a case such as this, and that if there is one, and only one, opportunity remaining to rebut the trial proceedings, the evidence presented and the verdict handed down, we must address each and every issue thoroughly and with rational, logical diligence. We believe there is more known about the case today than when it went to trial.

Issue of Probable Cause

The assistant prosecutor originally assigned to the case was suddenly dismissed and District Attorney Blonigen took the case over himself. Blonigen primarily relied on hyperbole, mis-direction, mis-characterization of events and evidence and dismissal of pertinent facts.

The central issue of the charge itself was, 'did Knospler fire the shot through the car window, or had the victim smashed the window from the outside, and then proceeded to gain entry into the car through the window opening which by then would have had numerous shards and chunks of glass projecting from the window's supporting frame; at that point the shot was fired in self defense.

The State's theory, was that the shot was maliciously fired through a closed car window while the victim was innocently standing outside the car, guilty of only being a 'happy drunk' (as per Blonigen's remark at trial).

The most salient feature of the case, was the "missing" evidence that would have been present if the State's theory, was correct.

The Glass Problem

A bullet fired straight through a car window carries a shower of fine glass particles forward on a pressure wave with sizes ranging down to hundreds and even tens of microns. For reference, these fine glass particles are typically the size of the grit on fine sandpaper or in polishing and grinding compound. The shock front of the pressure wave begins to reflect off the glass surface, back toward the shooter, even before the bullet has completely passed through the window, carrying with it some of the micron sized glass particles created on impact which get embedded in the woven fabric of clothing and cannot be simply brushed off. At close range these micron sized glass particles will be deposited on both the shooter and the victim.

FBI Ballistic video

In the FBI ballistic video the shot is not orthoganal to the glass panel, but rather at a considerable angle which accounts for the blast of particles reflecting more upward than back toward the shooter, and tends to rotate the bullet itself producing bullet tumble. The cloud of glass particles carried by the bullet show no diced sized pieces of glass, such as were presented by the proscecution, in a half full coffee cup, during the trial and refered to as "piles of glass" by D A Blonigen. It is clear from the FBI video, that a cloud of fine particulate glass dust swarms forward, inundating the entire target area.

In this case, there is no known crime lab report indicating that fine glass particles were observed or detected on either the victim's clothing or skin, nor on Knospler's clothing, skin or hair. The lack of micron sized glass particles, on Baldwin or Knospler,substantiates that Knospler did not shoot through the car window.

When a glass panel, confined in a frame or similar support, breaks from a force applied to side 1, the glass on side 2 of the panel experiences a force of tension while the glass on side 1 is put under a force of compression. The tensile strength of glass is lower than the compression yield point, so the fracture begins to form on side 2, the side opposite the applied force. The glass panel, now in fracture mode, continues to move in the direction of the force applied to side 1. When the crack reaches side 1, the compression force at the edges of the crack, on side 1 exceeds the yield point, the edges fracture and collapse into very small splinters and chards and are propelled backward against the applied force, since there is no other direction for them to go. The bulk of the glass however, is propelled forward as the energy is transferred to the glass from the applied force in accordance with the law of the conservation of momentum.

This goes to explain 1) why a few small fragments of glass were found on Baldwin, and 2) why the interior of the car was inundated with dice sized fragments of glass when the window was punched out.

Click here to view an example of this phenomonon

More Glass details

The Muzzle Stamp Problem

The State rejected the report of their principle investigator, Mr. Daily. Daily's report indicated that the physical evidence supported the theory that the car window was smashed in from the outside, and the victim was partially inside the car when shot.

Daily reported that in his opinion the gunshot wound was a 'contact wound', meaning that the gun's muzzle was in contact with the victims body when the gun was fired. We have never learned of exactly what evidence, led him to that conclusion nor why he later abandoned it. Until very recently we were not privy to any information that would confirm or refute Daily's opinion.

Two photographs, previously unavailable to us, have now emerged that were surely in the hands of both the prosecution and defense. They illuminate our understanding and affirm Daily's original analysis of the evidence.

Shown below, is a somewhat out of focus police photograph of Knospler's Nighthawk model 1911 pistol, which shows an atypical and unique muzzle profile.

We have secured a high quality advertising photograph, shown below, of this unique muzzle design directly from Nighthawk in order to clarify and qualitatively describe the geometric lines and styling of the muzzle. It is unlike anything most people have ever seen adorned on a pistol. You have to see it to appreciate its elegant uniqueness and artistic flair.

As regards the Nighthawk's muzzle, we draw attention to the fact that an over arching arc merges with straight left and right sides, which themselves join with shorter arcs, and finally join the straight edge across the bottom of the muzzle. The left and right side straight portions of the muzzle's profile are closely in line with and roughly equal in length to the diameter of the bore. The muzzle's outer edge is chamfered all the way around and its central surface appears to be ball-mill-recessed, merging with the bore itself, all together producing a narrow frontal face, with a uniquely shaped contact area, that would make first contact in any situation where muzzle contact was made.

Shown below are cleaned up photographs of the wound area and the tee-shirt, still in place but pulled down so as to show the wound and the bullet hole in relative proximity with one another.

On close inspection is seen, a hexagonal impression (ie muzzle stamp), surrounding the hole in the tee-shirt, that closely matches in size and scale the outline of the frontal face of the Nighthawk's muzzle. Straight parallel sides, and points where the sides meet with curved arcs are discernable.

The lower portion of the muzzle impression is less clear and wider than at the top since the body surface that made contact with the muzzle's face was at an angle, (ie not perpendicular) making greater contact pressure with the upper 3/4 of the muzzle and lighter contact pressure with the bottom of the muzzle. The escaping hot muzzle gas blast at the bottom of the muzzle smeared and failed to produce as sharp an impression as can be seen at to top, as the hot gas spread out faster due to less contact pressure and heat transfer near the bottom of the muzzle.

Muzzle blast temperature for a pistol is conservatively reported to be over 3000 deg F, and for a few milliseconds heat is rapidly transferred to whatever is in contact with the muzzle blast. In this case heat transfers through the tee-shirt, leaving the telltale impression of the muzzle, and heats the flesh beneath the tee-shirt to a temperature that denatures the biological substance of the skin and subcutaneous flesh, causing it to appear discolored, literally bruised, cooked or branded. This partly accounts for the discoloration ring around the entrance wound.

The pathologist and others of the State's experts apparently came to believe, maintain and reported, that the wound was not a contact wound; that what appears to be muzzle stamp is actually bullet wipe. The measured distance across the flats of the semi hexagonal imprint on the tee shirt is approximately 7/8 (.875) inches, almost exactly the width of the Nighthawk's slide and barrel assembly. It remains to be explained by the State's crack investigation team, as to how a round bullet with a diameter of .45 inches can produce a bullet wipe that measures 7/8 of an inch across and have the approximate shape of a hexagon.

During the trial, Aaron Shatto was asked by D A Blonigen, if "there was anything unusual about the end of the barrel of this gun", meaning the Nighthawk pistol. Aaron Shatto testified that he noticed the unusual muzzle design, describing it as a 'hexagon', and admitted he knew little more about the model 1911 Nighthawk. So it apppears that D A Blonigen began a line of questioning for the record, so as not to be accused later of not being forthcomming regarding poyential evidence, and was aware of the the unique shape of the muzzle, and surely he would know that muzzle stamp is an imprint of muzzle design. Had the pathologist;

a. Had prior knowledge of the unique design of the Nighthawk's muzzle, and

b. Noticed the unusual impression, called 'Muzzle Stamp' on the tee-shirt, and

c. Made a logical connection between the two, then

d. What would have then been the pathologist's conclusion?

Click here to view an assortment of Muzzle Stamp images

When one speaks of a gun barrel, the image that most often comes to mind is a simple round metal bar with a hole in the center, not a complex geometrical shape such as found on the Nighthawk model 1911 pistol.

Compare the Nighthawk's muzzle design shown above with the more typical design employed on the Springfield 1911 A1 shown below and imagine the muzzle stamp each gun barrel would produce.

Several questions logically come to mind .

Is it the responsibility or purview of a forensic pathologist to examine clothing, make determinations and render opinions regarding external evidence apart from the body itself?

If it is, then one might ask the following;

a. Did the pathologist examine the tee-shirt at all?

b. If so, were any unusual markings on the tee-shirt around the entrance hole, observed and/or noted?

c. Was the pathologist aware of the unusual muzzle configuration of the Nighthawk pistol?

d. Was the pathologist aware that an investigator and photographer Aaron Shatto, who noticed the unusual muzzle design, and would that fact bear on any consideration of a contact wound and the resulting muzzle stamp that may be on the tee-shirt?

e. Should a district attorney, being a minister of justice, persue evidence that might be exculpatory, if he or she is aware that such evidence may reverse a conviction?

If it is not responsibility of a forensic pathologist to make such inquiry, then should not this direct evidence be presented and evaluated by an un-biased third party gunshot and/or ballistics expert who has knowledge of and studied the science of Muzzle Stamp?

The Pathology Problem

Dr. Carver states in his report, that a refractile material consistant with glass was observed surrounding the entrance wound on the body.

A refractile substance is a substance that refracts light such as glass, water,air etc.

By referring to a property of glass, Carver's statement suggests the presence of glass, but it could be any substance capable of refracting light, such as blood plasma or partially dried blood plasma, which seeps from a wound and can appear almost clear, transmitting and refracting light.

Carver's statement infers that a bullet, passing through a glass car window, carries a glass residue which can be deposited on the skin surrounding a wound. Further, there is no mention of the same refractile material being deposited on the periphery of the hole in the victims tee-shirt, such as bullet wipe, which the bullet passed through before reaching the victims skin.

No where, to our knowledge, is there a report that indicates a test for glass, anywhere on the victim, was ever made even though glass is implied in Carver's ambigious and misleading statement. If the crime lab took the position that glass was or may be present, would not they have made further tests, including for micron sized glass, especially if the prevailing theory claimed that the shot was fired through a tempered glass window which would have produced a cloud fine glass particles?

We have learned that a detective in the case told the crime lab that a test for glass was un-necessary since the body fell onto glass already on the ground in the parking lot. Glass referred to as dice sized chunks were located some number of feet from where the victim fell to the ground. However if test results for micron sized glass particles, as described above, on the victim's face, body and clothing, were found to be negative, Knospler would have been vindicated.