Evidence: Gruesome Photographs

Ault v. State, ___ So. 2d ___, 35 Fla. L. Weekly S527 (Fla. 9/30/10)

The defendant murdered seven and eleven year old sisters. The trial court did not abuse his discretion by admitting photographs of the dead victims because the photographs were “used by the medical examiner to explain his conclusions regarding the circumstances of the victims’ deaths.”  One photograph showed disproportionate bloating of the victim’s head and provided evidence of strangulation.  Two photographs provided evidence of vaginal trauma.  One photograph “depicted a white foam coming out of one victim’s mouth, which was evidence that she was alive when placed in [an] attic, and that there was a difference of twelve to eighteen hours between the times of death of the two girls.”  One photograph “depicted bruise marks on a victim’s neck.”  Another photograph showed “discoloration in different areas of [the victim’s] body.  The medical examiner described evidence of manual strangulation, the effects of strangulation on the victims, and evidence of vaginal trauma and hemorrhaging. The medical examiner testified that the shorts of the first sister to die were buttoned incorrectly, but the clothes on the sister who lived longer were undisturbed.