A bloodied white phone in his right hand, the prosecutor in the Jean Harris murder trial enacted for the Jury today one way Dr. Herman Tarnower might have sustained a gunshot wound in his right arm -- while calling for help.
"Could he have sustained the wound this way?" prosecutor George Bolen asked an expert witness, holding the phone to his ear.
"Yes," pathologist Cyril Wecht replied.
And would the doctor have been able to reach for the phone after the shot to the arm? the prosecutor pursued.
"I do not believe he would be able to raise the phone after the humerous had been broken," said the witness. "Unless, perhaps, the left hand had been used to raise it . . ."
The longtime lover of Harris, Tarnower was shot four times in the bedroom of his home last March -- in the hand, right arm, chest and back. The defense holds the shots were accidental, and that the wound to the doctor's right hand was suffered as he tried to save Harris from shooting herself. The subsequent three wounds have not been explained.
The prosecution today drew for the jury another scenario: Tarnower was shot first through the hand and into the chest. Then, his hand wounded, he reached for the phone. At that point he was shot in the arm. The wound to the back has yet to be explained to the jury.
Shots to the back are not, understandably, preferred topics with the defense which has struggled masterfully throughout Harris' trial on second-degree murder charges to eradicate the word "back" from the English language. Neither is the phrase "back shoulder" allowed. "Posterior right shoulder" corrects defense attorney Joel Aurnou when an insensitive witness uses the unfortunate word or phrase.
Predictably, he was enraged when Bolen suggested to the jury that his client had shot Tarnower as he was calling for help. Moments after the prosecutor had asked the witness if the wounds could possibly have been sustained in that manner, Aurnou angrily snapped out a crude reply.
"Isn't it also anatomically correct that the wounds could have been sustained while he was sitting on the toilet?" he yelled, as Harris covered her face in disgust and Tarnower's sister, from the visitor's section, broke out in an uncharacteristic outburst. "Very funny," she said loudly.
Ignoring them, Aurnou contained his counterattack.
"Isn't almost anything physically possible?" he said. "Couldn't you say she could have shot him as he was hanging upside down from the ceiling?"
The witness, a pathologist with 30 years experience, answered with scientific dispatch.
"Technically, if you were to place a probe in the hole in the body, and it were to line up with the place in the room where the gun might have been fired, that anything is possible, if it is within the realm of physical possibility," he said.