JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A defense expert testified Tuesday that a Georgia woman died from previous unlicensed cosmetic injections in her buttocks, not the ones at the center of a depraved-heart murder trial in Mississippi.
The testimony came from Dr. Steven Hayne, Mississippi’s former state medical examiner, in the trial of Natasha Stewart, 40, of suburban Memphis, Tenn.
Stewart, an adult entertainer also known as Pebbelz Da Model, is charged in the 2012 death of Karima Gordon, 37, of Atlanta. Authorities say Stewart referred Gordon to another woman, an interior decorator who is accused of injecting Gordon’s buttocks with silicone at a house in Jackson.
The jury didn’t hear Hayne’s testimony, which came as part of a prosecution challenge of his methodology. Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bill Gowan approved Hayne as a defense witness.
Opening statements had been scheduled Tuesday, but snowfall in Jackson was blamed for a delay when two jurors didn’t show up on time. Opening statements are now scheduled for Wednesday.
Among other things, Hayne testified that the substance found in Gordon’s body was not the same as the silicone substance found later in the home of the suspected injector, Tracey Lynn Garner, a floral and interior designer.
Patrick Beasley, an assistant Mississippi attorney general, challenged Haynes assertion that Gordon died from previous injections. Authorities said Gordon became ill just hours after Garner performed the $1,500 procedure and died days later at a Georgia hospital.
Beasley said that if the substance in Gordon’s body didn’t match what was found in Garner’s home during a search six months later, it could simply be that Garner had run out of the silicone she used on Gordon and bought more that wasn’t exactly the same.
During jury selection Monday, defense attorney Matthew Eichelberger suggested that Stewart’s case amounted to “bad advice” given by Stewart, who had also received the injections without having an adverse reaction.
Both Stewart and Garner are charged in Gordon’s death with depraved-heart murder, a legal term for an action that demonstrates a “callous disregard for human life” and results in death. It carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Stewart also faces charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
She has pleaded not guilty.
Garner also is charged in the 2010 death of Marilyn Hale of Selma, Ala., who authorities say died from similar injections. She has pleaded not guilty. Her trial is scheduled for March.
Authorities initially identified Garner as a man, Morris Garner, but her attorney said Garner, who was born male, had sex reassignment surgery. Garner’s lawyers have declined to comment on the case due to the gag order.
Black market procedures are a problem across the country as people seek out cheaper alternatives to plastic surgery. Deaths from black market buttocks injections have also been reported in several states in recent years.