Our faithful readers may remember that I wrote a newsletter back in 2011 called “Can One Punch Kill” but it has been many years since then and I asked one of my nurses to write up a newsletter. Ironically, she dug through some of my ideas and came across the same article. Her take on the article is below.
Back in 2010, there was a story in the media titled “Deadly punch on tragic night leads to prison.” It describes a story where after a night out drinking with friends, Googins, a 21-year old man, encountered 24-year old Bensonwho was walking with a female friend. Googins made sexually suggestive comments to Benson’s female friend. When the Benson told Googins to leave, Googins punched Benson. The blow knocked Benson down and he hit his head on a brick surface; he died later that morning at the local medical center. The medical examiner’s office said the death was a homicide and the cause of death was “blunt force trauma to the head.”
Although suggested by the title, it was not the punch that was deadly. It was the fall that led to Benson striking his head onto a hard brick surface. This impact most likely caused arteries between the brain and the skull to rupture resulting in blood collecting in the brain. This is called an epidural hematoma. Because bleeding is coming from a ruptured artery, the bleeding occurs quickly and it occurs with high pressure. Because the skull is not pliable, as the blood collects between the brain and the skull, pressure builds up in the brain and it too builds up quickly. As the pressure increases within the skull, it also applies pressure to the areas of the brain that are responsible for cardiac and respiratory function. Without urgent surgery to release the pressure, death typically results.
Although they believed that Googins intended to punch Benson, the prosecution did not believe he meant to cause his death. Googins pled guilty in an agreement that included the dismissal of a manslaughter charge. According to the article, “He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with all but 2½ years suspended, and three years of probation with conditions that include 400 hours of community service and a ban on using drugs and alcohol.”
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CRIMINAL CASES?
Alcohol-induced fighting occurs frequently and thus assault cases are not uncommon in the criminal dockets. However, in cases such as this one, it is important for a medical expert to review and educate the court on the mechanism of injury. The attorneys involved may not have realized that the punch itself was unlikely to have directly caused the fatal injury.
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