The murder trial in PÈrez ZeledÛn of Ann Patton Bender is expected to resume today after two unusual developments.
The medical examiner who gave conflicting testimony in two previous trials, Gretchen Flores SandÌ, failed to show up to testify last week. She generally is considered the prosecutor’s most important witness.
And prosecutors were reported to have said they would appeal the case yet again if the Tribunal Penal de PÈrez ZeledÛn renders an acquittal.
Mrs. Bender, a U.S. citizen, is on trial for the 2010 shooting death of her husband, multimillionaire John Bender, also a U.S. citizen. The husband and wife were alone in their five-story 8,000-square-foot glass-walled showplace mansion when Bender died.
The prosecution claims Mrs. Bender shot him. She has testified that she was struggling with him to prevent the suicide when the firearm went off.
The Benders usually carried weapons because their 5,000-acre private wildlife refuge in La Florida de Bar™ was plagued by poachers and others.
The case has generated international interest, and a U.S. television crew was reported to be at the trial.
Mrs. Bender has been involved in the case since the Jan. 8, 2010, death, and has spent considerable time in prison.
A trial court Jan. 21, 2013, gave the benefit of the doubt to Mrs. Bender. She was set free because judges said that there was not sufficient evidence that she had killed her husband.
Bender was said to be bipolar and had attempted suicide once before. However, prosecutors appealed the decision.
A second new trial panel in PerÈz ZeledÛn convicted the
woman May 27, 2014 imposed a sentence of 22 years and remanded her to prison. She finally got out last February based on the order of the Tribunal de ApelaciÛn de Sentencia de Cartago, which voided the sentence and ordered yet a new trial.
CBS news hired a husband and wife team of forensic experts who raised serious doubt about the investigation and the evidence that was used to convict the woman.
They said that the testimony of Ms. Patton was plausible.
Prosecutors based much of their case on the location where the bullet entered the head and said that this would have been difficult for a left-handed person.
Those close to the case note that Bender could use both hands well and that there is a photo showing him wearing a pistol holster on his right side. They also questioned the testimony of Dr. SandÌ, the medical examiner, and noted that she changed her testimony between the two trials.
The transcript of the second trial shows that Dr. Flores relied on word of mouth from someone she does not remember to conclude that Bender was left-handed.
The CBS experts said that investigators also failed to photograph the scene correctly, test the blood stains on the bed sheets or even fingerprint the gun.
The Poder Judicial said that 12 witnesses were scheduled to testify during the latest trial.
The state has a special interest in the case because neighbors had reported that after Mrs. Bender went into custody law enforcement for some reason cleaned out the mansion of all its furnishings. The goods and furniture are supposed to be in storage. The government also confiscated a large amount of jewels and jewelry, the property of Mrs. Bender, on the grounds that the items were smuggled into the country.