22° Good Morning
22° Good Morning
Long IslandSuffolk

Forensic scientist testifies for defense on age of bruises at East Hampton rape trial

Jason Lee arrives with his wife at the

Jason Lee arrives with his wife at the Suffolk County courthouse in Riverhead on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

The bruises that an Irish tourist said she got while being raped two summers ago by a Manhattan investment banker were likely days or even weeks older than that, a forensic pathologist testified Monday for the defense in Suffolk County Court.

Dr. Lone Thanning, former chief medical examiner of Rockland County, said she based her opinion on photographs of the bruises taken during a sexual assault exam hours after the woman, then 20, reported being attacked. The woman said Jason Lee, 38, raped her on the bathroom floor in an East Hampton house he was renting.

Thanning was the first defense witness to testify before Judge Barbara Kahn, who is hearing the case without a jury. Lee faces 25 years in prison if convicted of first-degree rape.

During questioning by defense attorney Andrew Lankler of Manhattan, Thanning said bruises change color in a predictable way as they heal. Based on photos of the woman, who returned from Ireland last week to testify, Thanning said she got all the bruises at different times.

Bruises on the woman's hip were a week or two old, while one on her right pinkie was a few days old. That bruise was visible in a photo taken the night before the alleged rape, Thanning said.

Another bruise on the woman's back was about two weeks old, but a scrape in the middle of it was fresh. Thanning said bruises can be itchy as they heal, and suggested the woman scratched herself there.

During cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Shalvey in Riverhead, Thanning agreed it's better to view a live patient than photographs before reaching conclusions. She conceded that colors can be inaccurate in photos depending on the lighting conditions.

She also acknowledged that bruises heal at different rates, depending on the person and the severity of the injury. Deeper bruises take longer to heal, she said.

Thanning also said she doesn't often examine live patients. The last time she examined a rape victim was more than six years ago, she said.

She said she was unfamiliar with a study cited by Shalvey that said two doctors examining a bruise agreed on its age only 27 percent of the time. Thanning resisted Shalvey's suggestion that she merely gave the answers that Lankler had indicated he wanted.

"Mr. Lankler did not try to coerce me or make me opine certain things that I couldn't back up," Thanning said.

Latest Long Island News