The neurosurgeon who operated on Joan Porco’s skull fractures after the ax attack inside the Porco family’s Brockley Drive home in November 2004, said her severe injuries could cause memory lapses following recovery.
Dr. Paul Spurgas, associate professor of neurosurgery at Albany Medical Center, spent six hours removing and repairing damaged bone from the center of Porco’s scalp down the right forehead and right eye during a 12-hour overall operation to save her life. Joan Porco survived the attacks that murdered her husband, Peter, and for which her son, Christopher, 22, is now on trial.
The injuries were extensive involving multiple skull fractures, said
Spurgas during testimony on Thursday, July 6. `I repaired the brain the best I could.`
Porco’s injuries, which prosecutors believe were inflicted by her son Christopher Porco, were so severe that 4 to 5 inches of bone had to be replaced.
`She would have died if injuries were left untreated,` said Spurgas under questioning by Albany County Assistant District Attorney and Chief Prosecutor Michael McDermott.
Spurgas is considered an expert witness for the prosecution because of the 7,000 surgeries he performed throughout his career, hundreds of them involving brain and spinal cord injuries.
Defense Attorney Laurie Shanks was quick to point out that Spurgas is a neurosurgeon and not a neurologist, and cannot testify as an expert witness with respect to cognitive functions.
`It is not uncommon for patients after neurosurgery to have changes or lapses in their memory,` Spurgas testified.
`You couldn’t tell if she (Mrs. Porco) was asleep when injuries to her eye and skull took place, is that correct?` Shanks asked.
`Correct,` said the doctor.
`You certainly didn’t ask Mrs. Porco any questions,` continued Shanks.
`She was under anesthesia when I saw her,` said Spurgas.
Joan Porco could not communicate for a period of time after surgery because her jaw was wired shut and she was fed through a feeding tube.
`Did she communicate with you in any way?` asked Shanks.
`I asked her if she had memories, but never specifically of the attack,` said Spurgas.
`There is no notation that ever indicated Joan Porco was given a mental status exam when she came to the emergency room,` Shanks said.
`She was sedated before coming to the emergency room, and could not respond with a tube in her throat,` said Spurgas.
A key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case against Christopher Porco is that police and paramedics at the scene of the crime on Nov. 15, 2004 testified later that Joan Porco nodded `yes` when asked whether her son Christopher had attacked her.
Defense Attorneys Shanks and Terence Kindlon are trying to poke holes in that theory. It is their belief it was too dark to see the assailant in the middle of the might, and both Joan and Peter Porco could have been asleep before the attack occurred. The defense believes that, combined with Joan Porco’s mental state immediately after the injuries when paramedics began treatment, make it impossible for her to know who committed the crime.
Peter Porco was found dead at the base of the stairs in his home after the attacks by Third Appellate Division Court Officer Michael Hart, who arrived first on the scene on Monday, Nov. 15, when Peter Porco didn’t report to work.
Christopher Porco is charged with murder and attempted murder and is free on bail. He is currently living at the home of Elaine LaForte and her family in Glenmont.
The trial recessed at the end of the day Thursday, and is scheduled to resume on Monday, July 10.`