Is It Improper to Show Photographs of An Autopsy to a Jury ?

In People v. Lefler, 38 Ill. 2d 216, 230 N.E.2d 827 (1967), defendant was tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter after his infant son died while in his care. An autopsy was performed on the infant. With respect to the autopsy, the doctor testified that it revealed numerous hemorrhages along the vertebral column near the junction of the ribs, fractures of several ribs, as well as a skull fracture and extensive brain damage. The doctor testified that the rib injuries could have been caused by a crushing type of injury and that the skull fracture and brain damage could have been caused by a blunt force. Over the defendant's objection, the trial court allowed photographs from the autopsy to be published to the jury and projected on a screen approximately 44 by 26 in size. One of the pictures showed the chest cavity after the breast bone and a portion of the ribs and the lungs, heart and main blood vessels had been removed. The other photographs showed the skull and portions of the brain after an area of the skull had been removed. The Lefler court held that it was improper for the photographs to be shown to the jury, holding: "The testimony was that the body of the deceased bore little superficial evidence of injury and the gruesome nature of the pictures was caused almost entirely by the autopsy procedure. We believe that the pictures had little probative value in view of the detailed testimony by the physician and the fact that the nature and extent of the injuries was not disputed. The pictures were of such a nature as to arouse strong emotions on the part of the jurors and we hold that the court erred in permitting these photographs to be shown to the jury." Lefler, 38 Ill. 2d at 222.