FORTHWORTH, Texas — Tyler Skaggs was killed by the opioid fentanyl in an autopsy performed in 2019. The medical examiner that conducted the autopsy said that it was accidental.
Dr. Marc Krouse stated that Skaggs's death was “greater probabilities” due to fentanyl.
The jury's interpretation of that testimony is critical in Eric Kay's defense.Communications director, who is facing felony charges for distributing opioids and causing Skaggs' deaths.
Skaggs, who was on the team to play in the Texas Open, was found dead in Southlake, Texas hotel room July 1.. The toxicology report revealed that he had consumed oxycodone and fentanyl before he became unconscious from his vomit.
Skaggs would still be alive if it weren't for the fentanyl, according to the government. Kay is accused of giving it to Skaggs. Kay claims that he does not believe that Skaggs was given the fentanyl, and that even if it had, it is impossible to prove that Skaggs died from the effects of the fentanyl.
Krouse was Tarrant County's deputy medical examiner when Skaggs was autopsied. However, he was fired last year following a string of mistakes that hampered his 42-year career in forensic pathology.
Skaggs autopsy has not been accused of any problems. Krouse did not declare Skaggs' murder a homicide. Kay was brought to trial by the government months later. A news release stated that “it was later determined that the fentanyl” was responsible.
Prosecutors are yet to say when or who made that determination. However, they will likely address the issue when they call toxicology witnesses next Friday or next.
Krouse was a complicated witness for the government. They needed him to record the autopsy results into evidence. A casual observer could easily have mistook him for a witness for defense. Krouse's abrupt departure from his long-standing job at the U.S. Department of Justice was immediately addressed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Errin Mart during her direct interview. It had been obvious that prosecutors anticipated a defense attack upon his credibility.
This attack was not carried out.
Reagan Wynn, defense attorney, noted that the men have been friends for many years and that Krouse did not mention any past problems until the end. Wynn focused on Krouses extensive experience with overdose cases, including those involving oxycodone, fentanyl and other drugs, to back Krouse’s decision that Skaggs's death was accidental.
Krouse testified Skaggs was not legally drunk at the time he died but had quit drinking hours prior to his death. Krouse also stated that Skaggs had consumed oxycodone between 30 and 60 minutes before his death. Krouse said that Skaggs died soon after consuming fentanyl, based on the amount of drug his body had taken in. Krouse described the fentanyl amount as “potentially poisonous.” He said that if someone ingests three things and then dies they generally infer that the third — in this instance, fentanyl – is what caused their death.
He stated, “No scientist is 100% certain.”
Krouse, Skaggs stepfather and mother watched from the gallery. Krouse said that Skaggs died after an examination of his brain. Skaggs’ mother was clearly distraught when an autopsy technician told them how he removed fluids.
Wynn was repeatedly asking Wynn if Skaggs could be killed without fentanyl, and Krouse did not give Wynn the clear answer he needed.
Wynn asked Wynn: “Without the Fentanyl, could he have” caused him to vomit and become asphyxiated?
Krouse declared, “Reduced Probability.” “It cannot be eliminated.”
Wynn asked Wynn to continue by asking: Can you prove that Tyler Skaggs would still be alive if Tyler hadn't taken fentanyl?
Krouse replied: “Greater likelihood.”
Wynn concluded, “Higher probability, Lower probability.” “That's about as close as it gets.”
Krouse replied, “Yes.”
While Skaggs' technical expert testified earlier in the day to compiling the data from Skaggs phone, the government highlighted a series texts between Kay, Skaggs, that the government offered as evidence Kay gave Skaggs drug information the night he died in Texas. (Defense argues that transactions between Kay, an addict, and Skaggs occurred in California and that Texas should have no jurisdiction.
The text exchange has already been discussed many times since Tuesday's trial. Kay: “How Many?” Skaggs says “Just a few.” Skaggs: “Like 5.” Kay: “Word.” Skaggs: “Don't need many.” Kay: “K.”
Skaggs' phone was deleted by Skaggs, which the defense countered with questions that suggested that Skaggs had something else to hide than his conversation with Kay.
In an effort to make Skaggs behavior and Kay's trial as relevant, the defense also called Stefan Hare, a U.S. Secret Service witness. Skaggs' death was preceded by a series text messages between Skaggs and someone who was listed in Skaggs' phone as “Ben R”. A selfie Skaggs received showed that “Ben R”, who was a young woman, was also displayed by the defense.
Ben R: “Hey boo.” Skaggs : “How are your doing?” Ben R.: “You're going love my outfit today –ha.” Skaggs: “Oh yeah? You can take me to the place where it is.
Ben R said that she would be sitting in Section 210 behind the Dugout and sent the selfie shortly after.
Skaggs: “Ha ha – so sexy.”
He instructed her to visit the food area after the game, so that she could view the black western dress he had in mind for the Texas trip.
Both sides have previously stated that only team officials are allowed to enter the clubhouse room, where players and some staff eat.
The trial should last at most for the next week.