Poker Murder Trial Hears of "Burking" and Theft
Scratch marks above Ted Binion's mouth, a small red lesion in the middle of his chest and bruises on his back prove the wealthy former casino executive was murdered. This was the testimony of a forensic pathologist in the third week of the rerun Las Vegas "Poker Murder Trial".
Sandy Murphy, a 32-year-old former stripper, and Rick Tabish, a 39-year-old Montana contractor are being retried for killing Ted Binion, the son of legendary casino owner Benny Binion who founded Binion's Horseshoe, home of the World Series of Poker. Their first convictions were overturned on appeal.
Dr. Michael Baden said that the marks show the millionaire heroin addict was killed by a rare method of suffocation called "burking."
"Mr. Binion died from traumatic asphyxia, trauma to the body that prevented him from breathing," Baden said.
Baden told jurors that abrasions on Binion's lip were probably made while he was struggling against someone covering his mouth. He said two small lesions on Binion's chest were caused by shirt buttons being pressed into him as someone applied pressure to his chest.
Baden also testified that Binion had haemorrhaging in his eyes, which is common in asphyxia victims.
Binion's former lawyer, Brown, was not allowed to tell the jury what he had testified to in the first trial, that Binion had told him: "Take Sandy out of the will, if she doesn't kill me tonight. If I'm dead, you'll know what happened."
District Judge Joseph Bonaventure said the testimony could hinder Murphy's ability to get a fair trial. When the state Supreme Court overturned the convictions in the case, justices expressed concerns about Brown's statement, saying it essentially allowed Binion to testify from the grave.
Prosecutors believe Murphy and Tabish, a former contractor from Missoula, Mont., forced Binion to ingest lethal levels of heroin and the anti-depressant Xanax and then suffocated him. They say the pair were motivated by greed.
Two days after Binion's death, Tabish was caught digging up a cache of silver buried by Binion in an underground vault. Authorities estimate the silver was worth $7 million.
Defense lawyers say Binion, a heroin addict, died of an accidental overdose.
Prosecutors said that Murphy and Tabish spent the fatal morning killing Binion and then pillaging his home before Murphy's frantic 911 call at 3:55 p.m. to report that Binion had "stopped breathing."
Binion's daughter, Bonnie, told jurors Thursday that her father always carried about $10,000 in cash on him, and kept more cash, rare coins and precious stones in hiding places in his home.
Bonnie said that the morning after her father's death there was no money in his wallet or pants, his coin collection was missing, and his usual cash-hiding spots were empty. Binion's housekeeper returned to the stand to testify about a long list of items that were missing, including gold pocket watches and silver coins.
Prosecutors also showed jurors slow-motion replays of three moments on the tape in which Murphy pocketed items.
In one scene, Murphy appeared caught off-guard by her attorney, who entered the kitchen where she was standing near a counter by some wine glasses.
Prosecutors have previously theorized that Murphy had slipped a wine glass into her bag and that the item may have contained evidence related to Binion's murder.
The defense has stated that Murphy had poured herself a glass of wine and didn't want to be captured drinking on tape.
Court TV Extra is streaming the trial live on the Web.