• U.S.

Medicine: Blood Spurt

2 minute read

In the San Jose, Calif, court where David Lamson was for the second time last week on trial for murdering his wife (TIME, Sept.11, 1933, et seq.), a crucial question arose. The walls of the bathroom where Mrs. Lamson died were spattered with blood. Did the blood spurt there from the tub, in which her husband claimed she had fallen and fatally cut the back of her head? Or was the prosecution right in contending that the blood got on the walls as Mr. Lamson repeatedly bashed in the back of his wife’s head with an iron pipe?

To testily how far blood spurts from an open artery. Dr. Clement Harrisse Arnold, 49, of San Francisco, whose hobby is murder evidence, marched into court. Dr. Arnold had a thick gauze pad fixed with adhesive tape to the back of his neck. Said he: “So far as I know, no one has ever experimented with a human being to find out how far his blood will shoot. So I undertook an actual experiment.”

As every fascinated soul in the courtroom listened. Dr. Arnold told what a thoroughgoing medical expert he was: “I went to my barber and had my neck shaved. Then to raise my blood pressure to a high level I ate a large meal, drank many cups of coffee, and smoked several cigarets.

“Then I had a doctor put a lateral and horizontal incision in my neck. It was an inch-and-a-half-long cut. He then located the occipital artery in the back of my head and clamped the blood vessel.

“The arterial clamp was released suddenly. The blood spurted only six inches vertically and only 18 inches laterally. That is the maximum spurt with the flesh held clear. But in a normal cut where the edges of the wound do not gape, blood from the back of the head would well rather than spurt. This proves that a severed occipital artery cannot throw blood around a bathroom as the Lamson defense contends.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com