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Medical examiner speaks Tuesday in trial regarding murdered UT student Haruka Weiser

20-year-old Meechaiel Criner is accused of sexually assaulting the University of Texas at Austin student before strangling her to death in 2016.

AUSTIN — After several days of testimony which revealed the details surrounding a University of Texas freshman's 2016 death, the trial for the man accused of killing the Austin student is expected to wrap up this week.

Authorities believe Meechaiel Criner, 20, sexually assaulted Haruka Weiser before strangling her to death on campus in April of 2016. Weiser was a freshman dance student from Portland, Oregon. The lead detective in the case said they focused on Criner as a suspect once firefighters found him at a building with items that belonged to Weiser.

At the start of the trial, Weiser's father and investigators in the case testified. On July 16, Criner's foster mother testified.


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On Tuesday, the state called on Texas DPS forensic scientist Lindsey Bynum, who processed some of the hair and fibers found at the crime scene. She could not say if the hair found on the hammer matched anyone. She said fibers found on the ligature at the crime scene were similar to a backpack she was presented.

Forensic DNA analysts Sarah Copeland and Gloria Dimick spoke next. They focused on a piece of hair that was found on a green t-shirt, among Criner’s belongings left at the vacant Medical Arts building. In the hair analyzed, Dimick said Weiser and her relatives could not be excluded, though Criner and his maternal relatives could be. She also testified that they could exclude 99.89% of the North American population as having that particular mitochondrial DNA type.

Next, Kendall Crowns, deputy medical examiner for the Travis Co. Medical Examiner's Office, was called. He said the autopsy was performed on Weiser on April 6, 2016, and provided graphic photos depicting the damages, including lacerations and bruising she had on her body before and after cleaning.

Crowns said the evidence showed clear signs of sexual assault. He said Weiser suffered strangulation and a skull fracture on the left side of her head. Crowns stated the sexual assault occurred around the same time of her death, but that her heart was still beating when the sexual assault took place. Crowns said the cause of Weiser's death was due to being strangled with the ligature prosecutors described as a nylon strap. He also said that blunt force trauma played a role because it would have incapacitated her, meaning she wouldn’t have been able to remove the ligature.

Later, the judge discussed with prosecutors and defense about “violent porn” videos found on a tablet provided to the defense. The judge decided to throw those out because they were graphic and not needed to prove intent or motive.

The defense also objected to the presentation of the writing made by the defendant because they said the search warrant did not authorize the personal writings of the defendant, to which the state countered by saying the writings were intended to be publicized. The judge overruled the defense's objection, admitting it as a piece of evidence.

Then, the state called Manuel Fuentes, an investigator with Travis County District Attorney's Office and a former police officer, to the stand. Fuentes examined mobile devices, which he described as cell phones or anything that can store data and is mobile — including the tablet collected from Criner’s locker at the LifeWorks shelter he was arrested at. Fuentes said the document in question was found on a flash drive connected to the tablet and not found on the tablet itself.

Confusion about the document's origin caused the judge to release the jury for the rest of the day and instructed them to reconvene Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

Criner, who has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder charge, faces life in prison.

Follow reporter Molly Oak for updates from the courtroom:

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