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      Cause of death debated in manslaughter trial

      Tuesday marked the first full day of testimony in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Thomas Hyttinen. Hyttinen has been charged with beating to death Carl Mercer last April at his Ishpeming apartment on Fourth Street.

      T he prosecution called five witnesses to the stand, including two medical experts, two Ishpeming law enforcement officers, and a Michigan State Trooper.

      F orensic pathologist David Start testified Mercer's death was directly linked to the head injuries he sustained at the hands of Hyttinen.

      "My opinion is that his death was caused by coronial cerebral trauma, or blunt trauma to the head, with a significant contributing factor of acute and chronic alcohol abuse," said Start.

      T he defense used Mercer's history of alcoholism to argue his heavily damaged liver and weak heart may have contributed to his death.

      D efense attorney Sarah Henderson grilled Start, pointing out there was no physical evidence of brain damage. Start said there wouldn't be any sign of swelling because of how quickly Mercer died.

      "In this scenario where he died so rapidly after the assault, then I wouldn't even expect to see much of any significant hemorrhaging in that area of the brain," said Henderson.

      O nce the prosecution rested, the defense called well known forensic pathologist Werner Spitz, whose high profile cases include the OJ Simpson civil trial and Casey Anthony murder trial. Spitz argued if severe damage to the brain did occur, there would have to be some sign of it, no matter how quickly Mercer died.

      "Somebody gets a punch or runs against a pole, or falls, or is smacked by somebody, almost immediately there is swelling in that area," said Spitz. "And that is true of the brain as well."

      S pitz further told the court the medical professionals who examined Mercer's body drew immediate conclusions to the cause of his death, while possibly ignoring underlying medical issues.

      "The only thing I could see is that people got carried away when they brought in this individual who had no pulse, no heartbeat, who was unresponsive--'Oh my god, he's got a black eye, something terrible must have happened.'"

      The trial will resume for a third day Wednesday, where the defense is expected to call more witnesses.

      It is unclear whether or not Hyttinen will take the stand in his own defense.