Olivia Pryor case to move to circuit court after expert testimony
The preliminary exam for two young men facing charges related to the death of MSU freshman Olivia Pryor came to an end Tuesday in East Lansing’s 54-B District Court, 101 Linden St., as experts were brought to the stand to testify on the cause of Pryor’s death.
After the second day of the preliminary examination, Judge David Jordan determined the case will move on to Lansing’s 30th Circuit Court.
Pryor was found dead in her dorm March 19 after spending the night drinking with her roommate and two men, Detroit resident Dishon Tyran Ambrose, 19, and Eastepointe, Mich., resident Marquez Dominique Cannon, 17. Ambrose was a friend of Pryor’s and her roommate’s from high school. The two women had only met Cannon about one time prior to the incident.
Ambrose faces a felony charge of selling or furnishing to a minor causing death, while Cannon faces the same charge. Cannon also faces charges of criminal sexual conduct, injury to an incapacitated victim, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree causing physical injury and criminal sexual conduct in the third degree to Pryor’s roommate using force and coercion without personal injury.
In Lansing’s 30th Circuit Court, Cannon will face the same charges, and Ambrose will face his initial charges and an additional felony charge of accessory after the fact criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.
Joyce DeJong, Sparrow Hospital medical director of forensic pathology and Ingham County medical examiner, testified she conducted an autopsy on Pryor’s body on March 20. She determined the cause of death was acute ethanol intoxication. Ethanol is the type of alcohol present in alcoholic beverages such as the tequila Pryor drank on the night of her death.
When Pryor died, the alcohol level in her blood was at about 0.349 percent, showing that her body alcohol content was at 0.349 percent at a minimum when she died, DeJong said, referencing to the autopsy.
DeJong said Pryor’s death was accidental, also determining she likely stopped breathing, based on masses of foam bubbles evident in Pryor’s lungs.
“There were no indications that Olivia Pryor was attempting to take her own life,” DeJong said. “There was no indication that others were attempting to take her life by forcing (or giving) her alcohol.”
Choking on her own vomit was not the cause of Pryor’s death, as she likely died from respiratory depression, or of her lungs shutting down because of alcohol consumption, and she stopped breathing, Dejong testified in reference to the autopsy.
Both DeJong and Stephen Guertin, medical director of the Sparrow Children’s Center and physician at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, also testified Pryor had tears on her vagina that could have been caused from sexual assault.
Guertin pointed out at least four injuries in Pryor’s vaginal area, including two tears and bruising.
“When you look at rape victims, that’s when you start to see three, four, maybe more injuries,” Guertin said. “The presence of multiple injuries also goes very much toward non-consensual sexual activity as opposed to (consensual) sexual activity.”
He testified an alcohol-naive patient with a blood alcohol level of about .35 percent would be close to a comatose state, and they may stop breathing or die.
Although Sheldon Hepburn, Ambrose’s defense attorney, showed concerns about whether injuries to the vaginal area can occur from consensual sex or from “rough sex,” Guertin said it is still more likely that the injuries were caused by an assault.
“The incidents of injury are so much higher for non-consensual sex, than the incidents of injury for consensual sex,” Guertin said. “You also have to look at whether the patient could have consented.”
Guertin went on to argue that he did not believe Pryor was able to give consent to sexual intercourse with Cannon.
“The evidence is, she’s dead — she’s dead with an ethanol level that would kill you,” Guertin said on the stand. “How can she consent with an ethanol level that killed her?”
Cena White, Cannon’s attorney, also pointed out that Guertin could not determine at what point on the evening of March 18 Pryor was intoxicated to the point where she could not consent to having sexual intercourse.
Although Ambrose and Cannon were tried together at the district court level, White anticipates the men, who she said have competing interests, should not be tried together at the circuit level. She plans to address that in circuit court, she said.