The prosecution’s key witness Dr. Charles Harlan was a disgraced former Chief Medical Examiner who lied about his credentials and presented bogus scientific testimony that conveniently fit the prosecution’s theory about the time of death.
The prosecution failed to reveal that Dr. Harlan was under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) for illegal activity and gross misconduct when he testified at trial.
In 1995, the TBI banned Dr. Harlan from its lab and the Tennessee Department of Health notified Dr. Harlan that his contract as State Medical Examiner was being discontinued. Yet Dr. Harlan continued to misrepresent his credentials.
Dr. Harlan was ultimately found guilty of 18 charges of incompetence and negligence in 2005 and stripped of his license.
Dr. Harlan’s testimony left the jury with an inaccurate reading of the evidence on the key issue, time of death, which ultimately led to Gary’s conviction and sentence. Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan, Chief Medical Examiner for Knox County, Tennessee, testified that Dr. Harlan’s use of slides of organs to determine the time of death is “not the recognized science.” Dr. Stanton Kessler, Associate Professor of Pathology at USC Medical School, noted that determining time of death from slides of internal organs is “way outside the realm of any science that I know of…” adding he has “never heard of this theory and does not know anyone that ascribes to it.”
In fact, medical experts’ examination of the data puts Tommy’s time of death within 24 hours of the body’s discovery on Monday, February 21, when there is no evidence he had been with Gary. This medical opinion is based on three key factors:
First, there were no signs of decomposition of Tommy’s body, including a green discoloration of the abdomen, which happens after 24 hours in a dead body;
The forensic team had difficulty moving Tommy’s body because of rigor mortis, which begins approximately eight hours after death and gradually subsides over a 24-hour period; and
Lastly, the gunshot wound appeared fresh with bright red blood.
Gary is on death row because of the testimony of a medical examiner the State could not trust and the State itself stripped of his license to prevent him from harming anyone else.
Gary is not the only individual to suffer because of Dr. Harlan’s ineptitude. Joyce Watkins and Charlie Dunn were recently exonerated for the death of their grand-niece because of botched autopsy reports by Dr. Gretel Harlan, Charles Harlan’s wife, and Harlan himself.