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Essa trial begins with opening arguments and testimony

The trial of Yazeed Essa began on Monday with opening arguments laying out the stories of the prosecution and the defense of the Akron General doctor accused of poisoning his wife, Rosemarie.

The prosecution's theory is that Yazeed laced Rosemarie's calcium supplements with cyanide in 2005 and then fled the county after her death an hour after a car accident.  Assistant Prosecutor Steven Dever described Essa as a "narcissistic sociopath" during his arguments.  From Essa's known philandering, his flight to Lebanon to avoid prosecution, and attempt to escape from a Cypriot prison supposedly with help from the Russian mafia, this almost seems an understatement if it's all true.

The defense is keeping up the salacious nature of the case with its major theory: that one of Essa's lovers envied Rosemarie enough to kill her.  Essa's lawyer, Steven Bradley, describes the prosecution's case as circumstantial.  The defense is all but pointing to one former lover in particular: Marguerita Montanez.  She had a relationship with Essa up to his engagement to Rosemarie.

Bradley doesn't deny Essa's cheating ways, labelling his client a "playboy" in arguments.  This is likely to be fatal and the near "accuse someone else" story has problems.  There are questions of how Montanez could get access to cyanide, get to Rosemarie's supplements, fill them with more than enough cyanide to kill someone (it's harder than it seems) without revealing tampering that Essa could detect (again, easy to spot an opened capsule), and not be seen doing this.

Deputy Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj testified on Tuesday on Rosemarie's autopsy and revealed that if the accident were more violent, no one would have thought to look for poisoning.  Cyanide is so rare, it's not part of the standard toxicology tests.

Despite what the media would have us believe, cyanide poisoning is not very evident.  Defense attorney Mark Marein found this out the hard way on his cross of Dr. Balraj.  Years of literature, movies and television tell us that cyanide leaves an immediately recognizable "bitter almond" smell.  This is not true  as the average person is not familiar with the scent of bitter almonds.  The ability to detect cyanide by smell is common, however.  Only one in four people can't smell cyanide.  The other common symptoms are weakness, euphoria, headaches, dizziness and difficulty breathing.  These are common to other disorders.

The trial is expected to last about seven weeks.


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