Murder In Massachusetts: Entwistle Post #7 : The Week Ahead For The Defense

In my previous post I discussed how I expect that when the defense opens its case this week, it will offer as one (or more) of its chief witnesses, an expert in the field of depression and suicide in women. I wrote that I expect such a witness(es) will testify that it is “possible” that Rachel Entwistle murdered her baby, then committed suicide, because she was depressed due to a variety of factors, including the fact that her husband was seeking sex with strangers on the internet.

Aside from this type of expert(s), which would largely comprise the defense’s case-in-chief, I would expect it also possible — assuming they feel confident that the answers they seek would support their case — that the defense may call to the stand one or more of Rachel’s friends, associates or family members, to testify about any marital problems that Rachel may have confided in them, or about any stresses with raising a child that Rachel may have spoken of, or about their perceptions of her state of mental health and whether she seemed either not her normal self, or depressed. (Interestingly, one item of testimony I noted from the medical examiner, was Rachel’s weight: 159lbs. That is rather high for a woman of her size, and although it’s not a certainty, I wouldn’t be surprised if the defense suggests, aside from other possible reasons, that Rachel may have also been depressed due to weight gain from her pregnancy, that she was unable to lose. This all speaks to the issue of depression or post-partum depression – obvious or latent – and depression is what the defense is likely to suggest motivated Rachel to kill her baby and herself. Raising the issue of Rachel’s post-partum weight is no guarantee, but it wouldn’t surprise me.)

As to the issue of who conducted internet searches on “How To Kill With A Knife” and “How To Commit Suicide”, the defense will probably suggest that, between Neil and Rachel, it was Rachel who conducted those internet searches, because she was suicidally depressed. However, doing so will complicate that theory at the very same time, as the victims died by gunshot. Also, the computer on which those searches were conducted was password-protected, and there has been no evidence introduced yet that Rachel had or knew that password.

Notwithstanding this potential problem, if the defense does call the type of expert witness(es) I’ve suggested as possible on the subject of female depression and suicide, when direct examining such witnesses, I would expect the defense will raise at least several of the following types of questions and inferences with such an expert(s):

“Is it possible, if Rachel had found out that her husband was seeking other women for sex on the internet, that she might have become so depressed or despondent as to take her own life?”
• “Is it possible that Rachel, if she was facing financial stresses, might have become depressed enough to consider suicide?”
• “Is it uncommon for recently-married women who are experiencing no sexual interest from their husbands to become depressed?”
• “What is the general incidence of suicidal depression among the female population in the United States? How common is it? How uncommon?”
• “What is the incidence of attempted suicide among women in the United States?”
• “What is the incidence of completed suicide of women in the United States?”
• “What, statistically, is the most common method of either attempted or completed suicide among women in the United States?”
• “If suicide by gun is the most common method of choice among women, how much more prevalent is it than other methods? Greatly prevalent? Slightly prevalent?”
• “What is the incidence of post-partum depression among the female population?”
• “Of the statistical incidence of post-partum depression in the United States, what percentage of patients is severe enough to consider suicide?”
• “What percentage of new mothers who attempt or commit suicide, also kill one or more of their children?”
• “Why would a depressed woman wish to kill her baby as well as kill herself?”

Of course, if this line of questioning is pursued, the defense will ask these questions knowing their witness’ answers will support their argument that Rachel committed murder-suicide. The defense need not prove this was the case, only that it is a reasonable possibility.

My prediction, if such a line of questioning is pursued by the defense: It will be ineffective. Such expert testimony, if it occurs, may make for good academic reading or interesting conversation, but it isn’t going to be persuasive to this jury, when the balance of all the other evidence and testimony in this trial is weighed in its totality. The balance of that other evidence and testimony, is simply too damning to Neil Entwistle. I could be wrong, but unless there are some major and unexpected defense surprises, I don’t see possible testimony on the statistics of suicide in women, or murder-suicide of mothers and their children, swaying this jury.

More on likely defense strategies later today or tomorrow.