Medical credentials of state senator argued

LAS VEGAS - The medical credentials of a state senator were argued Thursday as the defense began presenting its case in the Ted Binion murder trial.

Sen. Ray Rawson, D-Las Vegas, a dentist and director of dental programs for the University of Nevada System, was questioned extensively about a lengthy resume he submitted to bolster his credentials as a witness who will testify about marks found on the gambler's body.

Rawson was called to testify by John Momot, defense attorney for Binion's live-in girlfriend, Sandra Murphy.

Murphy and her lover, Rick Tabish, a Missoula contractor, are charged with killing Binion on Sept. 17, 1998.

Momot argued that Rawson was qualified to testify about a mark found on Binion's chest during an autopsy. The defense contends the mark on Binion's chest could have been caused by a button, and by someone pressing on the victim's chest in administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Prosecution witnesses testified earlier that the mark could have been made by the barrel of a gun.

The defense also contends that marks found around Binion's mouth were attributed to CPR efforts or a rash, and were not caused by an attempt to suffocate him, as the prosecution suggests.

Prosecutors claim Binion was forced to ingest a lethal dose of heroin and the prescription antidepressant Xanax, then was suffocated.

Defense attorneys claim the well-known gambler and longtime drug user died of an accidental heroin overdose or committed suicide.

Clark County Deputy District Attorney David Wall argued that while Rawson might have outstanding credentials in dentistry, he did not have the qualifications of forensics pathologists the state had presented earlier in the trial. Rawson admitted he was not an expert in forensics pathology, which is a study of the cause of death.

Rawson testified he had been chief dental examiner with the Clark County coroner's office for 20 years, but agreed under questioning by Wall that he was not involved in the Binion autopsy and did not conduct autopsies.

Rawson also admitted that his listing of "chief medical examiner" among his credentials was in error.

Outside the presence of the jury, Judge Joseph Bonaventure said he would allow Rawson's lengthy resume to be introduced into evidence, saying "certain errors are blatant."

"This man is above reproach," Momot responded.

"Certainly," the judge replied.

Momot said there was no way of matching the mark on Binion's chest with the button on his shirt because the coroner's office lost the shirt. Binion was found in the den of his home, lying on a mat, clad in undershorts and a partially unbuttoned sports shirt.

Momot said Rawson was an expert in overlays - a method of determining the cause of marks on the body - and he wanted to use that expertise to dispute prosecution theories about what caused the chest abrasion.

Earlier, probate attorney Gardner Jolley testified that he became involved in a separate case involving Binion's will in November 1998 at the request of David Chesnoff and Oscar Goodman, who were Murphy's attorneys at the time. Goodman is now Las Vegas mayor.

Jolley said Binion added a codicil to his will July 9, 1998, giving Murphy $300,000 cash, his $900,000 home and its contents in the event of his death.

Binion's attorney and longtime friend, Jim Brown, testified earlier that Binion called him Sept. 16, 1998, and asked that she be removed from the will. Brown said Binion expressed fear that Murphy would kill him.

Brown drew up a second codicil the next day, only to learn later in the day that Binion was dead.

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