On Monday, Brandon Meade sat through the final day of testimony for the trial in which he is charged with the murder of Agatha Hall.
Hall, a 22-year-old Temple student, and Meade’s girlfriend, was found dead in her apartment on Park Avenue near York Street in August 2015. Her death was initially ruled a suicide, but further investigation from the city medical examiner’s office determined her death to be a homicide. On Sept. 15, 2015, Philadelphia Police arrested Meade and charged him with Hall’s murder.
On Monday, the last day of testimony, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Notarstefano returned Ann Marie Barnes to the witness stand. Barnes is a firearms examination specialist for the Philadelphia Police Department who served as an expert witness.
Barnes, continuing her testimony from Friday, explained how Philadelphia Police determined that the bullet hit Hall from between 15 and 22 inches away. Notarstefano argued that distance is too far for Hall to have shot herself. Barnes said she conducted a test analysis herself by firing the same handgun and brand of ammunition recovered from the scene.
Starting from 4 inches away, Barnes said she fired the handgun at a piece of paper, moving back two inches and firing at a new sheet until the stippling, or gunpowder residue, patterns left on the paper were consistent with the marks left on Hall’s face from the gunshot wound.
Barnes showed the judge and jury each of her test sheets that showed how she arrived at her conclusion.
Once the handgun was fired 24 inches away from the paper, Barnes said the gunpowder pattern appeared too light and was spread across too large an area to remain consistent with the marks on Hall’s face.
Barnes said she viewed the medical examiner’s photos of Hall and also examined her body, using a template to map out the stippling pattern. Barnes said her opinion was formed by a combination of quantitative and eye-to-eye measurements.
Barnes also told the court on Friday that she could not “determine if the casings [found at the scene] did or did not get discharged from the recovered firearm.”
Aside from the bullet fragments recovered from Hall, there was one bullet recovered from the wall of the room where police found her body.
Notarstefano then called Detective Nathan Williams to the stand to confirm the dates and details of his reports and investigation for the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit.
Evan Hughes, Meade’s attorney, began his defense by bringing Carl Leisinger III, a private ballistics consultant, to testify as an expert witness.
Leisinger, who has 28 years of experience as an expert in ballistics, disagreed with Barnes’ testimony, saying the bullet wound and stippling were “oblong.” Leisinger added that Barnes fired at the paper straight on, and not from an angle, which he said was how the bullet entered Hall’s head.
“The reason is we’re not comparing flat to flat,” he said, adding while the test sheets are flat, the victim’s head is not. “I would say it’s much closer than 15 inches.”
Leisinger approximated Hall had been shot from between 4 and 8 inches away. He filed his report based on examining photos provided by the medical examiner’s office and photos of Barnes’ test sheets. Leisinger did not examine Barnes’ test sheets in person until yesterday when he was in the witness box.
Meade chose to exercise his right not to testify, but friends and family still took the stand as character witnesses, saying Meade was “law-abiding and peaceful.”
After the final witness concluded testimony on Monday, Judge Rose DeFino-Nastasi ended the session.
Closing arguments in the case will be held Tuesday morning.
Julie Christie and Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.