Jeffery Martinson listens on during his trial in Superior Court Wednesday Aug, 23, 2011. Martinson is charged with the first-degree murder of his 4-year-old son back in 2004. Aug 23, 2011. Darryl Webb/AFN

Darryl Webb

Jeffrey Martinson's defense attorneys continued to shine doubt on the thoroughness of autopsy reports on Friday, with testimony from a heart expert who said Joshua Eberle-Martinson's death in 2004 could have been caused by a heart defect that only manifested itself later in life.

Dr. Edward French, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Arizona, testified that Accutane, a drug Joshua's mother, Kristin Eberle, was taking for a short period of time during her pregnancy, would be a reasonable thing to look for when determining the cause of Joshua's death.

The drug can cause heart defects, called channelopathies, that French said may not manifest themselves until later in life. He gave the example of a teenager who collapses during a basketball game and dies. That teenager may have shown no signs of heart problems, but the stress of the basketball game could trigger cardio myopathy.

French said an emotional stressor could cause the same reaction from someone with that heart defect.

French said a genetic test would be necessary to determine if a defect in the heart channels contributed to the death, and that test is known to be expensive.

Earlier testimony from Dr. John Hu, the medical examiner in the case, said that the genetic tests on the heart were never done because an examination of the heart revealed nothing unusual.

The state attorney, Frankie Grimsman, clarified with French that there are three major heart defects known to be caused by Accutane. Other physical problems like smaller ears or a cleft lip would not contribute to the cause of death. Grimsman also confirmed that research showed that the three major heart defects would be apparent on a heart during an autopsy. There was no research that documented Accutane as a cause of channelopathies.

Martinson's defense attorney, Michael Terribile, argued that there may not be any documentation because the study of channelopathies is fairly recent.

Five-year-old Joshua was found dead in his father's Ahwatukee Foothills apartment after a weekend visit in August of 2004. Martinson is facing charges of first-degree murder.

The defense rested on Friday. The trial now moves to rebuttle before the jury will deliberate.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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