Medical examiner who admits to memory issues testifies at Norwood trial

Dr. Roberto Bayardo, at his Houston home in 2015.
Dr. Roberto Bayardo, at his Houston home in 2015. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the capital murder trial against 62-year-old Mark Norwood continues, the court heard key testimony from the man who performed her autopsy 30 years ago.

Dr. Roberto Bayardo described the gruesome details of the death of the young northwest Austin mother, beaten in her own bed.

The former Travis County chief medical examiner could provide crucial testimony in proving Norwood’s guilt and giving a grieving family closure, but in a KXAN Investigation last month, Bayardo admitted to KXAN’s Josh Hinkle he is forgetting key details of some high profile cases and must now rely solely on the autopsy report in trials.

Wednesday, we saw prosecutors are still using this longtime medical examiner to build their cases, even after KXAN informed the Travis County DA’s office about Bayardo’s admission.

“Through those injuries, I could feel that the skull had been crushed,” Dr. Bayardo said in testimony Wednesday. The former Medical Examiner is now 80 years old.

Decades have passed since he examined the body of Debra Baker, including details, he admitted to us a year ago, could be fading.

“I have no recollection. I’m getting too old. My memory has faded a lot. I have no recollection of all my cases,” Dr. Bayardo told KXAN in a previous interview.

In Wednesday’s testimony, details about Baker’s death didn’t seem to be a problem.

We spoke to Dr. Bayardo after he finished testifying. We asked him if he was confident he could remember things accurately from the year he did the autopsy. He simply replied, “I believe so.”

After testifying, we talked to both the prosecution and the defense.

Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel told us in part: “We had no concerns about Dr. Bayardo’s memory when he testified. His observations were supported by his photos and his report, and his opinion about the cause of Debra Baker’s death was straightforward and not disputed.”

Brad Urrutia, one of Mark Norwood’s attorneys told us, “In this particular instance we weren’t going to argue with manner or means of death, so any other Medical Examiner would’ve looked at it and agreed with it. Should he have talked about time of death or speculation, then we would’ve had an issue with it.”

Dr. Bayardo is expected to testify again in the coming days.

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