Final blows weren't fatal, defense expert testifies in Naeem Williams' trial
By Nelson Daranciang | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: April 5, 2014
HONOLULU — A defense medical expert told a federal jury Friday that 5-year-old Talia Williams had "time bomb" injuries ready to kill her at any time when her father, former Schofield Barracks soldier Naeem Williams, struck his daughter in their military family quarters at Wheeler Army Airfield.
Pediatric forensic pathologist Janice Ophoven said, "Little Talia died from complications of blunt force trauma to the head, chest and abdomen," that occurred weeks before she died.
Ophoven is testifying on Williams' behalf in his capital murder trial for the child abuse beating death of his daughter.
Williams is facing the death penalty for causing Talia's death on July 16, 2005, through child abuse. He is also facing the death penalty for killing Talia as part of a practice and pattern of assault and torture.
Ophoven's testimony pertains only to the charge of murder through child abuse. It contradicts the official autopsy report that lists the cause of death as inflicted head trauma due to child abuse.
Board-certified forensic pathologist Dr. Kanthi De Alwis was Honolulu's chief medical examiner when she performed the autopsy in 2005. She testified earlier that Talia died when the back of her head hit a flat surface. The impact caused Talia's brain to twist inside her skull, cutting off connections to the area that controlled her breathing.
Williams testified that he hit his daughter on her back, causing her to fall and hit the back of her head on the ground. He said Talia never got up from the fall and was declared dead at Wahiawa Hospital about two hours later.
A neighbor said she heard a loud thump followed by Williams yelling an expletive continuously.
Williams also said he punched his daughter in the chest earlier that same day.
Ophoven said the head injury Williams admitted he inflicted on July 16, 2005, wasn't, by itself, enough to kill Talia.
"She did not suffer fatal injuries on the day of death," Ophoven said.
She did say, however, that the head injury could have triggered the older injuries, which she said were 2 to 3 weeks old.
Ophoven said the older brain injuries were a time bomb that could have killed Talia on their own, and abdominal injuries were another time bomb that also could have also killed the girl.
Talia had 10 rib fractures, a puncture to her colon and a laceration to her liver and damage to her adrenal gland.
Ophoven said the colon injury would have leaked bacteria and caused toxic shock if they got into the bloodstream.
De Alwis said Talia did have an older brain injury that showed signs of healing and dismissed any abdominal injury as the cause of Talia's death. She said there was no sign of infection in Talia's abdomen.
Williams' wife, Delilah, testified that she had stomped on Talia and slammed her stepdaughter's head into a wall on June 29, 2005. She pleaded guilty to killing Talia as part of a practice and pattern of assault and torture in exchange for a 20-year prison term. Without the plea deal, she would have faced spending the rest of her life behind bars.