Jurors in the murder trial of Joel Steinberg viewed pictures Tuesday taken at the hospital of Lisa Steinberg's bruise-covered body, and a doctor who examined the girl testified she ordered the photographs out of a strong suspicion of child abuse.
Dr. Mary Marron, a pediatrician, told the jury her suspicions were most aroused by bruises she saw on Lisa's lower back, an area of the body she said would have been nearly impossible for the child to injure herself.Steinberg, 47, a disbarred criminal lawyer, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Lisa, a 6-year-old girl whom he raised as his daughter from infancy without formally adopting her.
He is accused of severely beating Lisa in his trash-strewn Greenwich Village apartment on Nov. 1, 1987, then leaving the girl comatose with his live-in girlfriend, Hedda Nussbaum, to go out for dinner.
The girl was brought to St. Vincent's Hospital the next morning and died three days later without ever regaining consciousness.
Testifying for the prosecution in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, Marron said her suspicions of child abuse were so strong when she examined Lisa in the intensive care unit at St. Vincent's that she called the hospital photographer. She ordered him to document the more than 20 bruises covering the child's body.
"There were four bruises in the sacral area (the lower back), which I found particularly significant," Marron testified under direct questioning by Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Peter Casolaro.
"In most child abuse (training) sessions, you are taught that it's almost impossible for a child to injure herself in that area," said the doctor, who said she has treated 300 cases involving child abuse.
"I strongly suspected child abuse," explained Marron, who now works at the Babies Hospital division of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.
As the somber jurors passed the 17 8-by-10 glossy color photographs among themselves, Lisa's biological mother, Michelle Launders, 27, lifted her glasses and wiped away tears.
Launders was an unwed teenage mother when she gave up Lisa to Steinberg, who had promised to arrange an adoption for the girl. Instead, he kept the baby girl without ever formally adopting her.